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The True Story of Lincoln's Murder 




The True Story of Lincoln's Murder 


The circumstances surrounding the 
murder of Abraham Lincoln have, 
through the inadequacy of contempo- 
rary accounts, through deliberate mis- 
representation from a variety of motives, 
and through public credulity, given rise 
to a plethora of legends, fantasies and 
falsehoods which go to make up the 
great American myth. No other single 
event in its history has so affected this 
country. The assassination of Lincoln 
stood out in people's minds in the same 
way that a solar eclipse or a convulsion 
of nature had stood out in earlier ages. 
From it people dated things before and 

In this scholarly yet exciting volume 
Mr. Bryan, well known as an editor and 
historian, reconstructs the dramatic 
story of this great national calamity, 
winnowing the truth from the rank 
crop of contradictory evidence and dis- 
torted facts. At the same time he tells 
of the rise of the vast and mysterious 
body of mythology which has deluded 
the public for seventy-five years and 
which is still being given currency by 
so-called historians. He has spent years 
of study and research on this neglected 
historical area, and "The Great Ameri- 
can Myth" is beyond question an impor- 
tant and original contribution to a 
subject which has been obscured by con- 
troversy, suspicion and confusion. In ad- 
dition to undertaking a more thorough 
search of contemporary newspapers 

( Continued on back flap ) 




the Class of 1901 

founded by 







Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 

I ■ccdi-Um to tho Ac* of OngHM 

No. «03 Vol. XXI 

NEW YORK, MAY 20, 1865. 

[PBICB 10 C»UT». tfw^H 

The sketch below was furnished by one of the two officers employed in the duty of sinking the hody of Booth in the middle of 
the Potomac. Although not authorised to divulge his name, I am able to vouch for the truth of the representation. 

New York. May 10th. 1865. F LESLIE. 

This imaginative front-page engraving in Frank Leslie's was entitled: "The 
Assassin's End— Final Disposition of the Body of John Wilkes Booth— an Au- 
thentic Sketch" 








173.711,3 i 

£3 %4-*r 


Foreword ix 

1. FEDERAL CITY, 1860-1865 3 









10. FLIGHTS END 228 

11. THIS WAS HE 259 

Afterword 382 
Acknowledgments 394 
Bibliography 396 
Index 408 


"the assassin's end" Frontispiece 






the three booths in "julius caesar" 148 

ford's theater, in washington 151 

mrs. Lincoln's note to grant 160 

ground plan of ford's 170 

the "state box" at the time of the murder 208 

"STATE box" AT ford's, FROM THE STAGE 212 






BOOTH, AGED 38" 340 



Always there have been men whom the world could not will- 
ingly let die. Such were Friedrich Barbarossa and Holger Danske. 
Such was the elusive Comte de Saint-Germain— that "odd man," 
who, said Horace Walpole, "professes that he does not go by his 
right name," and whom Andrew Lang styled "a will-o'-the-wisp." 
Such was Ahasuerus, whom the Bishop of Schleswig met at Ham- 
burg in 1542 and who was encountered near Salt Lake City by the 
Mormon O'Grady as late as 1868. Such were the Duke of Mon- 
mouth, Goffe the Regicide, Alexander the First of Russia, Jack 
Sheppard, the "Lost Dauphin" of France. 

In a corner of the Luxembourg Gardens, amid the early chill 
of a December morning of 1815, Marshal Ney was executed by 
a firing-squad. But years afterward, in the distant Carolinas, folk 
recognized the "Bravest of the Brave" in the person of a myste- 
rious school-teacher. Far-flung but vain was official search for 
Johann Salvator, Archduke of Austria, who had vanished with the 
bark Santa Margarita. Yet rumors were to tell of him as a miner 
in Canada and a grocer in Texas; as factory worker in Ohio, sol- 
dier with the Boers, patient in a New York hospital. 

Rudolf of Habsburg and Lord Kitchener alike reached cer- 
tainly their mortal end, but, with Arnold's Scholar Gipsy, each 

. . . long was seen to stray, 
Seen by rare glimpses. 

Saturnine Ambrose Bierce, enigmatic Lawrence of Arabia were 
both in common talk held back from Orcus and somewhere con- 



tinued to walk the earth. It is an oft-repeated tale— one that doubt- 
less will continue to be heard. 

Strange and involved beyond measure are the variations of it. 
The real Dmitri, heir to the throne of Ivan the Terrible, was mur- 
dered when a child. Yet three false Dmitris successively appeared. 
The first, actually crowned tsar, was killed in Moscow before a 
year was out, but a militant following promptly hailed the sec- 
ond. Moreover, although the two in no point resembled each 
other, the widow of the first soon acknowledged the second as 
her former husband! 

Scores of witnesses (including the family solicitor, household 
and personal servants, country gentlemen, farmers, physicians, 
clergymen, and fellow-officers of the dragoon-guards) identified 
Arthur Orton, the Tichborne claimant, as Roger Tichborne. So, 
indeed, did Roger Tichborne's mother, the dowager Lady Tich- 
borne; and though she did not live to be a witness, her affidavit 
was admitted in court. Thousands of Britons stood fiercely for 
Arthur Orton and contributed to a popular fund in his behalf. 
Nevertheless, he was not Roger Tichborne. A criminal trial duly 
revealed him as a monstrous perjurer; and he might have been in- 
dicted as a forger, too, had the Crown thus willed. Most of those 
who shouted for him ignored cheerfully the evidence in the case. 
As Lord Maugham puts it, Quod homines credere volunt, id facile 
credunt: Mankind readily believes whatever it wishes to believe. 

This was true in ancient Iran, where the murder of the genuine 
Smerdis was so little known to the people at large that the usurper 
Gaumata boldly and successfully assumed the role of that prince. 
It was not less true in the United States of the earlier nineteenth 
century, whose newspapers for years displayed in manifold con- 
flicting versions the legend of Theodosia Burr. In January 1813 
the lady— among the distinguished women of her day and at that 
time wife of Governor Joseph Alston of South Carolina— went 
down with all hands in the schooner Patriot during a violent storm 
off Hatteras. But now and again through the columns of the 
press drifted reports of her as queen aboard a pirate craft, or with 
a band of lotos-eating sea-rovers in some nook of the West Indies 
or Latin America. Or she was identified with that "unknown 
female stranger" who in 1816 was carried from an ebony-black 


ship into Gadsby's Inn at Alexandria, Virginia, by a cavalier who 
later, having placed above her grave a stone that bore no name, 
vanished as mysteriously as the two had come. 

This country has had a part in "survival tales," and the South 
and Southwest have been especially congenial soil. Was Quantrell 
the outlaw actually a victim of his wounds? Was it surely Jesse 
James who was killed by the dirty little coward that shot Mister 
Howard? Was William Bonney (better known as Billy the Kid) 
beyond peradventure brought down at Fort Sumner by Sheriff Pat 

The familiar superficial chronicle of the murder of Abraham 
Lincoln was, with minor variations, quickly established in the 
books. It appeared to satisfy the general historians, who for the 
most part have vaulted lightly over the whole affair in some such 
fashion as: 

President Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theatre in Washington on 
April 14th, 1865, by one John Wilkes Booth, an obscure and disrepu- 
table actor who was party to a conspiracy for the assassination of the 
President, the Vice-President, the Cabinet, and General Grant. Booth 
was pursued into Virginia and was shot when he refused to surrender. 
Four of the conspirators were hanged and four imprisoned. 

Perhaps there might be an allusion to the "vengeance of the flag," 
the Stars and Stripes that tripped the murderer so that he was 
injured and, in pausing for surgical aid, lost hours of time as he 
fled. But at best it would be only sketchy mention of the event 
that, as by the sweep of a knife, marked a dividing line between 
two eras of national life— the deed through which a civilian at the 
solemn moment of victory deprived the Northern armies of their 
commander-in-chief, rekindled the spent wrath of war, and made 
peace more bitter than the sword. 

The government went its official way, posting its spare bulle- 
tins, giving no heed to the quidnuncs and the newspapers. It might 
conceivably have issued, for public enlightenment, something like 
the British Admiralty's "white paper" in the Kitchener case; but 
it did not. The whole subject of Lincoln's murder at once became 
involved in a tangle of disorder and error, of falsehood and 
credulity, from which it has not yet been set free. 

Writers presumably serious have informed us (among many 


things) that Lincoln in 1861 proceeded to Washington by a 
roundabout course, over a dozen railroads, in order to avoid 
Baltimore; that he reached the capital at midnight and got to 
Willard's unrecognized; that Baltimore, knowing him for a just 
and good man, waited to receive him with true hospitality; that 
John Booth, by nature a killer, was also a "ham" actor rejected 
of managers and public; that the Confederate government, 
through its agents in Canada, found mischief for John's idle 
hands; that on the night of April 14th he was a member of the 
cast at Ford's Theatre and shot Lincoln from the stage; that Benn 
Pitman's volume is a complete, unbiased, and faithful record; that 
the testimony of such persons as Dunham, Montgomery, von 
Steinacker, Merritt, Mrs. Hudspeth, Duell, Weichmann, Evans, 
Norton, and Daniel J. Thomas is reliable and convincing. 

No other phase of the life of Abraham Lincoln has been treated 
so neglectfully and meagerly as has his leaving of it, and even 
accredited biographers fail us here. It is not surprising that a 
hydra-like "mystery" early began to take form and with the years 
acquired substance. A myth evolved that for amplitude and vital- 
ity has no equal in the United States. Nor is it a thing "sub- 
merged"— limited, as has been inferred, to uncritical folks of 
small reading. Magazine editors have been impressed by it; 
critics have done it reverence; historical scholars have viewed it 
gingerly and with concessions. A veritable jungle-growth of "sur- 
vival tales" has arisen and flourished. Like Ney and Rudolf and 
John C. Colt and the Duke of Portland (T. C. Druce), John Booth 
went on queerly prowling in queer spots. 

It is the aim of this book to offer, on the basis of considerable 
independent survey of evidence (including material never be- 
fore presented), (a) a new and authentic study of the affair of Lin- 
coln's murder, with such account of preceding events and of the 
setting in which it took place as may help to a better understand- 
ing of it; and (b) the story of John Booth as he was, of what hap- 
pened to him as it did really happen. The process has compelled 
the removal, either explicit or implied, of much fictional trump- 
ery of one kind or another. Inaccuracies are at least not purposed. 




O darkly inspired who, pushing back the walls 

Of the theatre, hurried from the disordered stage, 

Dragging your tragedy like a burning cloak 

After you through the land, and now enduring as wage 

The taste of the thick black grief that cleaves to your soul— 

Not alone do you flee the voice of God which beats 

Against you like a maelstrom; following you, 

The secretly guilty slink along the streets, 

Appalled because the deed they desired is done. 

The madman must perform what the cowards are dreaming. 

Escape! but the earth shall offer no hiding-place, 

The winds are pointing the way, the birds are screaming 

Your whereabouts. If you would discover peace 

Once more a moment before the bloodhounds come, 

Throw back your head and look upon the stars 

Far and serene above the pandemonium. 



ne • FEDERAL CITY, 1860-1865 

IN the fantastically dramatic eighteen-sixties there was an 
archaic town called Washington City. Already the period is half- 
legendary, and around the place have grown up highly imagina- 
tive accounts of contemporary events and persons. At times it has 
seemed that the more extravagantly lurid the version, the more 
likely was it to accord with common prepossessions regarding that 
entangled scene. 

During the Civil War, Washington, Federal seat of civil gov- 
ernment, was likewise headquarters of the Northern forces on 
land and sea. It became in effect a military post, ringed with 
a circumvallation of forts, between which stretched rifle-pits 
guarded by felled trees whose branches, trimmed and sharpened, 
confronted the enemy. So near the town was the war's opening 
battle that naive Washingtonians actually rode forth in carriages 
to view the show. Quickly they realized that this conflict was to be 
no holiday. 

From Washington, Union troops set out on their campaigns. 
There the Sanitary and Christian commissions had their main 
offices. Into its crowded hospitals (mostly temporary frame struc- 
tures, though even churches and the museum of the Patent Office 
were utilized) the wounded were brought. Thither flocked spies, 
bounty-jumpers, contractors, sutlers, gamblers, dealers in patent 
camp-furniture, cranks, lobbyists, office-seekers, tailors, camp-fol- 
lowers, journalists, adventurers, "bummers," desperadoes, hang- 
ers-on. Thither went busybody politicians and wiseacres to in- 
struct the Administration. Thither went plain folk to seek the 
wounded and missing; or sometimes, if it might be, to save the 



condemned. After major battles the place was sure to be crowded 
with strangers. From the North you entered by way of the Balti- 
more and Ohio Railroad, whose station (they called it a 
"deepo") was on New Jersey Avenue, not far from the Capitol. 

The Federal City had departed widely from Major L'Enf ant's 
original design. As for the disorderly Capitol, its unweathered 
marble wings stood out in contrast with its freestone central por- 
tion; and there was a local superstition that the building never 
would be finished. Not until December of 1863 was Crawford's 
Genius of Freedom (or, if you prefer, Armed Liberty) set atop 
the newly completed iron dome. On the second floor, at the west 
of the rotunda, was the Congressional Library, then a modest 
affair of some 80,000 volumes. Before the east portico sat Green- 
ough's twelve-ton image of the First President clad in a toga. The 
Capitol would appear to have had the most varied democratic 
uses. In its basement was stored flour from a Georgetown mill, 
said to have been intended for the Confederates. Under its roof 
incoming troops were billeted. In cold weather its well-warmed 
corridors were refuge for idlers. From the desperate heat of 
Washington summers there was no such escape. 

The President's House (or Executive Mansion, as it came to 
be styled) was considered unhealthful. The suggestion had been 
made that it be turned into offices and the official residence trans- 
ferred to Georgetown. Its grounds were ill-kept, and so late as 
1869 it was termed a national disgrace. Between it and the south- 
ern end of the Treasury building were the presidential stables. 
At its northern side, in the center of a small garden, stood 
d' Angers' bronze figure of Jefferson. From the southern windows 
could be seen the Washington Monument— not as today an ob- 
ject of shining beauty but truncated at 178 feet (or less than one- 
third of its present height), resembling, as was said in "The Gilded 
Age," "a factory chimney with the top broken off." Frequent con- 
temporary illustrations of the monument are deceptive not only 
in showing the entire shaft but also in adding at the base a colon- 
nade, proposed but luckily abandoned, surmounted by an effigy 
of Washington in a triumphal chariot. 

The War Department was officially located in a "musty old 
barrack" of drably painted brick at the corner of Pennsylvania 

FEDERAL CITY, 1860-1865 5 

Avenue and Seventeenth Street; but because of wartime expan- 
sion various bureaus of the department were housed wherever 
they might find room. Back of the War building was that for the 
Navy. At the corner of Fifteenth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue 
the State Department had sorry accommodations. 

Just beyond the east grounds of the Capitol was the Old Cap- 
itol prison. This "rat-trap" had a curious history. After the par- 
tial destruction of the Capitol by the British in 1814, Congress 
had occupied improvised apartments so thoroughly uncomfortable 
as to promote the idea of moving the seat of government— say to 
what then was the West, a region first made easily accessible by 
the Baltimore and Ohio. Thereupon a company of property- 
owners in Washington built for the use of Congress a domicile 
occupied by it until 1819 and thereafter known as the "Old 
Capitol." Converted into a boarding-house, it was the home of 
many senators and representatives. With the arrival of civil war it 
suffered change into a military jail, famed in wartime annals. 
For a while the romanticized Belle Boyd was here in durance, 
and so was the less romanticized but more effectual Mrs. Rose 
Greenhow. Adjoining it was the Carroll prison. 

Although the city's population of 60,000 (i860) grew in war- 
time, irrespective of the army, to thrice that number, and al- 
though city water had slowly been introduced, drinking water 
continued to be taken from wells and springs. There were but 
two little sewers, whose contents most annoyingly backed up into 
the cellars and shops of Pennsylvania Avenue. Along the northern 
edge of the rubbish-strewn Mall ran an open ditch, an enlarge- 
ment of Tiber Creek— "floating," says an eyewitness, "dead cats 
and all kinds of putridity and reeking with pestilential odors." 
John Hay wrote that by night through the south windows of the 
"White pest-house" the "ghosts of twenty thousand drowned cats 
come in." 

Streets often ended abruptly or trailed away into country 
roads that, in the words of "Bull Run" Russell, were "literally 
nothing but canals in which earth and water were mixed together 
for depths varying from six inches to three feet." In rainy weather 
Pennsylvania Avenue, "a romping ground for the winds," turned 
to mire through which teamsters belabored long-suffering trans- 


port animals and in which even light vehicles bogged down ut- 
terly. Said the Intelligencer of March 6th, 1865: 

The attention of the public authorities is again called to the horrid 
condition of F street, between the Patent Office and the Treasury 
building, and in an especial measure to that portion from St. Patrick's 
to that quagmire at Eleventh street. There were some half a dozen 
coaches shipwrecked at the latter-named point yesterday, and among 
them was the coach of one of the foreign legations. This coach settled 
into the mud to the axle, and after vainly crying for planks to be 
brought, upon which an exit to solid land could be effected, one of 
the distinguished occupants was rescued by a huge negro, who, wading 
leg-deep to the coach, brought the foreign officer in full diplomatic 
regalia through the sea of mud upon his back to terra firma. The other 
occupant plunged into the muddy chasm, came out safe, but with the 
mud hanging sadly upon his gay costume, and presenting altogether 
"a sorry sight." The horses were safely rescued, and the carriage saved 
in a broken condition. 

Livery stables flourished and hitching-racks were everywhere, 
for commonly men went about on horseback through the mud 
wherein pigs wandered "as freely as dogs." Public park-spots were 
rank with weeds. Sidewalks were of brick. At night Pennsylvania 
Avenue, flanked by many "oyster-bays," groggeries, and mean 
shops, was, with its few gas-lamps, the only lighted way; and the 
rural hand-lantern was still in use. The northwestern region was 
crossed by undrained marshes that were blamed for prevalent 
"chills-and-fever"— but nothing was done about them. "During 
the autumn, on the immediate banks of the Potomac," admitted 
a local guide-book, "bilious and intermitting fevers prevail to a 
considerable extent, but the malarian influences do not last long, 
and those who have become acclimated are seldom subject to 
these diseases." 1 From below the west side of the Capitol grounds 
reached another filthy waterway, emptying into the Eastern 
Branch of the Potomac. 

"As in 1800 and 1850, so in i860," wrote Henry Adams, 2 "the 
same rude society was camped in the same forest, with the same 
unfinished Greek temples for workrooms, and sloughs for roads." 
Which is quite in keeping with Tom Moore's epistle to Thomas 

John's "Hand-Book" for i860; pp. 81-82. 
a "The Education of Henry Adams"; p. 99. 

FEDERAL CITY, 1860-1865 7 

In fancy now, beneath the twilight gloom, 
Come, let me lead thee o'er this "second Rome!" 
Where tribunes rule, where dusky Davi bow, 
And what was Goose-Creek once is Tiber now: — 
This embryo capital, where Fancy sees 
Squares in morasses, obelisks in trees. . . . 

Goldwin Smith characterized Civil-War Washington as "gloomy 
and miry." 3 In a letter of November 29th, 1861, Hay described 
it as "this miserable sprawling village which imagines itself a city 
because it is wicked, as a boy thinks he is a man when he smokes 
and swears." 4 

Though Washington was filled with wooden buildings and 
nondescript alleys, its fire protection was decidedly sketchy. Often 
some fine old mansion would be cheek by jowl with a frame 
shanty. Yet Bohn's "Hand-Book" thought that "the broad streets 
and avenues are undoubtedly of great service in admitting to 
every dwelling a free circulation of wholesome air"; and the 
Intelligencer rather pointedly stated that "in the city of New 
York 15,224 people live in cellars." Pennsylvania Avenue's more 
pretentious structures were chiefly on its northern side. Besides 
the Capitol and the President's House, the only really imposing 
public edifices in Washington were those of the Interior and the 
Treasury. The simpler architecture of an earlier day was giving 
place to a gingerbread ugliness, with ponderous cornices, gro- 
tesque moldings. Lonely upon the waste of the Mall rose the be- 
towered and beturreted "Romanesque" pile of the Smithsonian 
Institution, quaintly deemed the city's handsomest fabric. 

In keeping order during the emergency of war, the metropolitan 
police force of about 150 uniformed officers was supplemented by 
the provost marshal's office and the National Detective Bureau. 
This division of authority was naturally obstructive in many 
ways. The Capitol and its grounds were in the care of special 
police, employed by Congress. A United States marshal, aided by 
numerous deputies, was in charge of the city jail. 

Cab fares were high, the cabs antediluvian. A street railway, 
with a five-cent fare, was introduced but long was viewed with 
disapproval by many of the old regime. It had been the custom 

3 The Nation, Feb. 7, 1907. 

4 Thayer, "The Life of John Hay"; I, 85. 


for omnibuses to draw obligingly to the curb in answer to signal- 
ing hand or brandished parasol; but these odd new Yankee con- 
traptions— "c'yar-boxes" as they were disdainfully termed— did 
nothing of the sort. Also, the question of their carrying Negro 
passengers became for a time a source of local difficulty. An act 
passed in 1862 freed slaves in the District and, on the basis of ex- 
pert appraisal, former owners received payment— but only after 
having taken an oath of loyalty. A letter in the Intelligencer of 
May 6th, 1863, signed "A Daily Sufferer," declared that the street- 
railway company (of which banker Jay Cooke, whose firm had 
offices on Fifteenth Street, opposite the Treasury, had been a 
promoter), although it was supposed to restore paving between 
rails and for two feet on either side, had not done so, and that 
the resulting condition was "shocking." A reply on the 7th ob- 
jected that "Sufferer" was unreasonable and blamed the trouble 
to some extent on the "soft" winter, which, "with the immense 
amount of travel over our streets," had "broken pavements every- 
where." The writer added that streets through which the rail- 
way did not pass were even worse. 

The directory for 1865 listed sixty-six hotels— many, no doubt, 
in the boarding-house class, for in Washington the boarding-house 
and its landlady were characteristic institutions; and plenty of 
homes had "roomers." Among hostelries of the better kind were 
Willard's (Pennsylvania Avenue, between Fourteenth and Fif- 
teenth Streets), where several Presidents, including Lincoln, had 
put up; the Kirkwood House (Pennsylvania Avenue at Twelfth 
Street), abode of Vice-President Johnson; and the National (Penn- 
sylvania Avenue and Sixth Street), which had been favored by 
Southerners. The dining rooms were unadorned halls set with long 
tables. Dancing parties known as "hops" were given by the man- 
agements and became the vogue. Willard's in its advertisements 
claimed to be the largest hotel in the United States, with quar- 
ters for 1,200 guests. The National, also capacious, was perhaps 
the only hotel ever to have given its name to a malady— the 
"National Hotel disease," supposed to have had its origin in the 
inadequate sewerage facilities of the city. From 5 to 7:30 o'clock 
p. m., the public rooms of Willard's were a favorite resort of news- 
gathering correspondents for the out-of-town press. The Kimmel 

FEDERAL CITY, 1860-1865 9 

House was the usual stopping-place of those engaged in smuggling 
contraband by way of Port Tobacco into the Confederacy. 

Restaurants and barrooms abounded. The directory for 1865 
has four pages of them in its classified section. Wines and liquors 
were cheap— the liquors often of the poorest quality. To be 
sure, it was contrary to regulations to sell to men in uniform. 
Signs read: NOTHING SOLD TO SOLDIERS, or otherwise to 
that effect (as, NO LIQUORS SOLD TO-followed by cuts 
representing the three arms of the service). Yet regulations were 
ignored so long as the only penalty was a few hours' detention 
in a guardhouse or a few dollars' fine imposed by a police justice. 
The shabbiest boozing-dens clustered around the governmental 
storehouses, repair shops, stables, and corrals. On April 4th, 1865, 
the day after Richmond's fall, the Washington correspondent of 
the Missouri Republican (St. Louis) wrote to his paper: "There's 
a strange affinity between patriotism and whiskey. I do not believe 
I am beyond the mark when I state there were five thousand 
drunken men to be seen on Pennsylvania Avenue yesterday." 5 

In the Potomac and the Eastern Branch, between raw banks, 
rode, from 1862 onward, war vessels known as monitors— craft 
that did indeed affect the whole trend of naval architecture and 
the course of naval warfare but that undoubtedly were as little 
like ships as anything that ever floated. The Navy Yard works 
(around on the Eastern Branch, at the foot of Eighth Street, east) 
labored full-tilt at iron plates for these "cheese-boxes on rafts" 
or at the casting of Dahlgren guns, familiarly known as "soda- 
water bottles" and now almost as outlandish-seeming as "Mons 
Meg" or the great bombarde of Ghent. Close by, from the foot of 
Eleventh Street (east), the wooden Navy Yard bridge crossed the 
Eastern Branch to Uniontown. From Maryland Avenue to the 
Virginia shore the wooden "Long Bridge" spanned the Potomac. 

In respect of the theater, Washington City was indeed some- 

8 Quoted by N. McN. Ring in "The Religious Affiliations of Our Presidential 
Assassins" (script in the Library of Congress: St. Louis; p. 3). (This may also be 
found in Mid-America for Oct. and Nov. 1933.) — In the McLellan Collection is a 
manuscript letter from Acting Ensign H. F. Curtis to his sister Ann in which, writing 
from the U.S.S. Gamma at New Bern, N. C, he says: "You speak of liquor. I wish 
you could form an idea (which is impossible unless you are here) of the amount 
used in both Army & Navy by officers. ... I have not met 12 who did not drink — " 
(Apr. 18, 1865). Se e also Russell, "My Diary North and South"; pp. 481, 577. 


what less primitive than the Washington of seventy years later. 
It had two active legitimate houses where stock companies were 
regularly maintained, where leading players of the day appeared 
as "guests," and where grand opera was sporadically performed by 
traveling companies. These were the rival Grover's (on Penn- 
sylvania Avenue, between Thirteenth and Fourteenth Streets) 
and Ford's (on Tenth Street, one and a half "squares" north of 
Pennsylvania Avenue, between E and F). Also there were the old 
Washington Theatre (at the corner of Eleventh and C, near Penn- 
sylvania Avenue), Canterbury Music Hall, Oxford Hall, and 
Seaton Hall (where recitals and concerts were usually given and 
where, too, occasional magicians, mediums, and ventriloquists 
were advertised). Other auditoriums were Odd Fellows' Hall and 
the concert hall at Willard's (seating 800); and lecturers fre- 
quently spoke in one of the larger of the numerous churches. The 
hall of the Patent Office was the scene of inaugural balls. Circuses 
exhibited on lots at the foot of Sixth Street or at the corner of 
Sixth Street and New York Avenue. 

During the winter of 1861-1862 a group organizing as the 
Washington Lecture Association presented a course of lectures by 
prominent figures of the lyceum platform. With the aid of Owen 
Lovejoy, Schuyler Colfax, and Lincoln, the large auditorium of 
the Smithsonian Institution was obtained over the protest of 
Director Joseph Henry, who insisted that at every lecture the 
chairman inform the audience that the Smithsonian was not re- 
sponsible for the sentiments expressed. Accordingly, the Rev. 
John Pierpont, the association's president, opened each lecture 
with this formula: "Ladies and Gentlemen: I am requested by 
Professor Henry to announce that the Smithsonian Institution is 
not in any way responsible for this course of lectures. I do so with 
pleasure, and desire to add that the Washington Lecture Associa- 
tion is in no way responsible for the Smithsonian Institution." 
Mrs. Charles Eames, wife of a Washington lawyer who often acted 
as counsel for the Navy and Treasury departments, was hostess of 
a salon in which kindred spirits foregathered. 

Like other American towns of the period, Washington City 
had in its interiors reached the apogee of bad taste. It displayed 
heavy curtains of Nottingham lace; marble-topped tables; wax 

FEDERAL CITY, 1860-1865 " 

flowers under bell glass; chairs and sofas of horrendous design and 
upholstered in slippery, tufted haircloth; ingrain or Brussels 
carpets adorned with bright cabbage-roses. Black walnut was the 
wood most used for cabinetwork; walls were covered with papers 
of a dispirited ugliness. The Executive Mansion, in whose second 
story Lincoln had his office, differed only in being on a somewhat 
more elaborate scale. Stoddard, one of the private secretaries, 
noted that during Lincoln's term the "reception" part had been 
refitted but that most of the house inside had a worn, untidy look; 
the basement carrying "somewhat the air of an old and unsuccess- 
ful hotel." 

Against such background moved civilians in generally somber 
clothes (including shawls for chill weather), stovepipe hats, high 
boots inside trousers— often with spurs, because men rode so 
much. Light-colored pantaloons and embroidered waistcoats were, 
however, in evidence. The women wore chignons, bonnets, frocks 
of heavy materials, and vast, tricksy hoops. Everywhere were sol- 
diers—soldiers in zouave outfits; soldiers with tunics flying to the 
breeze; soldiers in all sorts of neckgear and girt with tasseled 
sashes; soldiers garbed, it seems, very much as they pleased— reach- 
ing the extreme, perhaps, in General Custer, with his wide-awake, 
his long hair falling over the broad collar of a blue flannel shirt, 
and a scarlet cravat as big as a muffler. The gray of paroled Con- 
federate officers was an everyday sight. Beards of all cuts and no 
cut, whiskers of a sweeping luxuriance, were in the mode; 
mustaches ran to the heavy, drooping pattern. A popular song 
was "The captain with his whiskers cast a sly glance at me"— the 
accompaniment played on a square piano. (Stoddard was con- 
vinced that "all the young women of Washington, and some that 
are older," knew "more or less" how to play the piano.) 

Through the streets passed interminably mules, cattle, army 
stores, wagon trains. At all hours might be heard the footbeats 
of infantry on the march, the jangling of cavalry accouterments, 
the thud of hooves, the jar of artillery, the throb of drums. And 
there were funerals— a general's with a band and his staff in 
attendance, and an escort with arms reversed; or for a dozen 
privates at a time, their massed coffins accompanied by a corporal 
and a squad of ten men. "On the hills around . . . were the 


white tents of soldiers, and field fortifications and camps, and in 
every direction could be seen the brilliant colors of the national 
flag." 6 

Washington City had been of old divided against itself and tra- 
ditionally lacking in community spirit. With the onset of war, 
Southern members departed from Capitol Hill; but Confederate 
runners moved discreetly about their business, Confederate agents 
lurked. In the Washington of a decade before, young Henry Ad- 
ams had noted the heavy odor of the catalpas in the May sunshine. 
Heavier now was the atmosphere of domestic malice. The place 
was a micro-chaos in which might happen strange and terrible 

"I. N. Arnold, "The Life of Abraham Lincoln"; p. 452. 



AT Springfield by the Sangamon, on the night of November 
6th, i860, Candidate Lincoln sat in the telegraph office, musing 
over the bulletins as the sounder clicked them in. Unfavorable 
dispatches from New York had depressed him briefly; but before 
long a turn had come, and by twelve o'clock he knew the Presi- 
dency was his. Out in the streets, wreathing lines of men, linked 
arm to arm, chanted over and over, "Oh, ain't we glad we joined 
the Republicans!"— to the tune of "Oh, ain't I glad I got out 
of the wilderness!" With that firm, springless gait of his, but more 
buoyantly than usual, Lincoln walked home to the frame house 
at the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets— the only house he 
ever owned— and called out, "Mary— Mary! We are elected!" 

Yes, it was victory; but because the Democrats had been split 
between Breckinridge and Douglas it was a victory by a minority 
of the popular vote. Many a Northern Democrat never forgave 
Lincoln for his presumptuous defeat of the Little Giant. Southern 
Democrats termed him a sectional President. He once compared 
his attitude to that of a backwoods surveyor who, as he hunted for 
a corner, kept a weather-eye open for prowling Indians. Decisively 
his election marked the cleavage between slave states and free. It 
set the free states at last in power. It made widely vocal the 
Southern disdain and hatred of Lincoln himself. 

During the campaign, mutterings had been heard. In June the 
Hon. John Townsend delivered at Rockville, South Carolina, an 
address on the provocative topic "The South Alone Should Gov- 
ern the South." In August, Texans were stirring. One protested: 



I believe I am not in the dark when I say that if Lincoln is elected, 
it will take five hundred thousand troops to inaugurate him. To believe 
that the South would submit to it, with the train of calamities which 
must of necessity follow, is to believe that we are paltroons [sic], and 
destitute of every sentimental [sentiment of?] patriotism. [J.W.S., Fort 

Another asserted: 

It has now become a settled conviction in the South that this Union 
cannot subsist one day after Abe Lincoln has been declared President, 
if God, in his infinite wisdom, should permit him to live that long. 
. . . 1 [Dated at Marshall, August 12th] 

By December the mutterings had swelled to voices of portent. 
Somebody wrote to the Cincinnati Commercial that Lincoln 
would be shot during the inaugural exercises. Anonymous threats 
enlivened Lincoln's mail. In its Christmas Day issue the Rich- 
mond Enquirer (i860) contributed to the fund of seasonal good 
will the meaningful question: 

... If the Governor of Maryland [Thomas H. Hicks], influenced by 
timidity or actuated by treachery, shall longer delay to permit the 
people of that State to protect themselves, can there not be found men 
bold and brave enough to unite with Virginians in seizing the capitol 
at Washington and the Federal defences within the two States? 

Such thoughts were in men's minds. 

Caleb Cushing had been sent to South Carolina as Buchanan's 
representative, with the object of delaying, if possible, the passage 
of the ordinance of secession. His mission was hopeless. The ordi- 
nance was passed, as we know, on December 20th— the day on 
which Howell Cobb, Secretary of the Treasury, quit the Cabinet 
in which he had remained too long. Upon Cushing's return to 
Washington it was said that Senator Louis T. Wigfall of Texas 
(a South Carolinian by birth) divulged to a group of kindred 
souls his plan for Buchanan's abduction. While the President was 
held prisoner, Vice-President Breckinridge would take the execu- 
tive chair; and, as Wigfall put it, the South would not be "trapped 
into a war." But properly to manage the affair, and to get the 

1 Townsend's address was printed in pamphlet form at Charleston (i860; pp. 64). 
(See also his "The Doom of Slavery in the Union: Its Safety Out of It." Cf. the 
Evening Day -Book, Sept. 8, i860.) 


captive expeditiously out of Washington, Wigfall felt he needed 
the aid of the Secretary of War, John B. Floyd of Virginia. When 
the scheme was unfolded, Floyd absolutely refused to have any- 
thing to do with it. Thus, at all events, ran the story which that 
unknown chronicler "Public Man" entered in his contemporary 
journal. Passages from this journal (kept during the autumn of 
i860 and the winter of 1860-1861) were printed in the North 
American Review in 1879. "Public Man" was supposed to have 
been an office-holder in Washington, but his name was never 
revealed. 2 

A later and embellished version had it that Buchanan was to 
have been taken to a remote farmhouse, far in a secluded valley 
of the Blue Ridge. Then Breckinridge, who had himself been a 
candidate, would refashion the Cabinet, repudiate Lincoln's elec- 
tion, and forthwith be inaugurated. Lincoln, if he succeeded in 
reaching Washington, would be seized and imprisoned. Thus the 
Federal government would without bloodshed pass to the South 
and secession would become unnecessary. This variant (of rather 
doubtful authority) was supposed to have been traced to one 
Godard Bailey, chief clerk of the bureau of Indian affairs when 
artful Jacob Thompson was Secretary of the Interior. 3 

"Conspiracy," "abduction"— these obviously were notions that 
had penetrated the familiar gossip of official circles. On December 
29th Senator William H. Seward was writing to Lincoln: 

A plot is forming to seize the capital on or before the 4th of March, 
and this, too, has its accomplices in the public councils. I could tell 
you more particularly than I dare write, but you must not imagine that 
I am giving you suspicions and rumors. Believe me I know what I write! 

In like vein he wrote to Mrs. Seward: "Treason is all around and 
amongst us; and plots to seize the capital and usurp the Govern- 
ment." 4 On that same day the discredited Floyd at last resigned. 
That companies "strongly tinctured with secessionism" were 
drilling in Washington is the statement of L. A. Gobright, man- 
ager of the local office of the Associated Press and hence in a posi- 

3 See the Review for August 1879; pp. 131-132. 
8 The World (New York), Feb. 21, 1892, p. 13. 
4 F. W. Seward, "Seward at Washington"; p. 488. 


tion to know whereof he spoke. They looked, he says, "for a 
favorable opportunity to strike a blow at the Government." 5 

Northerners tarrying below the line were made aware of a gen- 
eral mood of scornful defiance. For example: In January 1861, 
while on a steamboat trip from Cairo to New Orleans, Mrs. Jane 
M. Johns heard it confidently said that Lincoln would never be 
inaugurated— that he would not get so far as Washington. 
"Washington City will be ours in less than a month. . . . When 
Washington is ours, Virginia and Maryland, Kentucky and Mis- 
souri will fall into line. Illinois is ready too, and the Mississippi 
valley with the whole northwest will be in the Confederacy." In 
New Orleans they asked whether Lincoln could read, always went 
barefoot, looked like a baboon, had a Negro wife. 6 

On January 3rd Lincoln wrote to Seward from Springfield: 

I have been considering your suggestions as to my reaching Wash- 
ington somewhat earlier than is usual. It seems to me the inauguration 
is the most dangerous point for us. Our adversaries have us now clearly 
at a disadvantage. On the second Wednesday of February, when the 
votes should be officially counted, if the two Houses refuse to meet at 
all, or meet without a quorum of each, where shall we be? I do not 
think that this counting is constitutionally essential to the election; but 
how are we to proceed in absence of it? 7 

Late in the month he sent Thomas S. Mather, adjutant-general 
of Illinois, to Washington. Mather was to see General Scott, learn 
precisely what steps were being taken to guarantee an orderly 
inauguration, and discover whether the General was "really and 
unreservedly" Unionist. Though propped on pillows, the ailing 
warrior left no doubt whatever. 

He said to Mather: "You may present my compliments to Mr. 
Lincoln when you reach Springfield, and tell him that I shall ex- 
pect him to come on to Washington as soon as he is ready. Say to 
him also, that, when once here, I shall consider myself respon- 
sible for his safety. If necessary, I shall plant cannon at both ends 
of Pennsylvania Avenue and if any of the Maryland or Virginia 
gentlemen who have become so threatening and troublesome of 

'"Recollections of Men and Things"; p. 286. 

""Personal Recollections"; pp. 86-87, 90. 

* Nicolay and Hay, "Abraham Lincoln: Complete Works"; vol. i, p. 663. 


late, show their heads, or even venture to raise a finger, I shall 
blow them to Hell!" 8 

The House of Representatives appointed on January 9th the 
Select Committee of Five, which heard evidence regarding "an 
alleged hostile organization against the Government within the 
District of Columbia." The testimony given did not in the opinion 
of the committee disclose the existence at that time of a definite 
organized plot to seize the capital. On February 14th the commit- 
tee's report was laid upon the table. Referring to the time as one 
when "the very air" was "filled with rumors" and when individ- 
uals were given to "the most extravagant expressions of fears and 
threats," it revealed a number of significant things. 

John B. Blake, who, as commissioner of public buildings and 
grounds, was head of the Capitol police, said he had examined a 
suspicious character named Columbus Edelin, alias Lum Cooper. 
Edelin, it was alleged, had offered to shoot Lincoln if nobody else 
would. When Blake had questioned Edelin about this, Edelin had 
replied, rather evasively, that no man dared accuse him to his 

Mayor James G. Berret of Washington spoke of certain loosely 
formed organizations that drilled regularly in the city. One of 
these, the National Volunteers, had before the Presidential elec- 
tion been a political club. The Volunteers had adopted a resolu- 
tion by which they were pledged to go with Maryland and Vir- 
ginia in case these seceded. Col. Charles P. Stone said that S. P. 
Hanscom, a newspaperman in Washington, told him that the 
Volunteers had an enrollment of some 1,500. Stone, who was on 
Scott's staff, was colonel and inspector-general of the militia of 
the District. 

Governor Thomas H. Hicks of Maryland testified that Judge 
Handy of Mississippi had assured him Lincoln would never be in- 
ducted into office. Southerners did not intend, according to the 
Judge, that Lincoln should "have dominion" over them. Asked 
whether he understood this to involve force or secession, Hicks 

8 C. W. Elliott, "Winfield Scott"; p. 688. Jesse Weik, "How Lincoln Was Convinced 
of General Scott's Loyalty," in Century Magazine, Feb. 1911; pp. 593-594. Scott had 
told L. E. Chittenden, "While I command the army, there will be no revolution in 
the city of Washington." 


He [Handy] did not explain. I was left to inference altogether; but 
judging by all that I knew, I believed it could not be prevented other- 
wise than by violence. 

For his own part, Hicks said, he was firmly of belief that an effort 
had actually at one time been made to form an organization hav- 
ing for its object an attack on the Federal government and on 
Federal property in the District. 

John H. Goddard, chief of police, made the rather surprising 
admission that he had not one detective officer on his force. Among 
other witnesses was Cipriano Ferrandini of Baltimore, who had 
been summoned as one acquainted with under-cover activities 
there. 9 

On February 4th (by which date six more states had followed 
South Carolina into the new Confederacy) the Peace Convention 
assembled in Washington. At Virginia's invitation, twenty-one 
states— seven slave and fourteen free— had sent delegates. Ex-Presi- 
dent John Tyler was chosen to the chair. In an effort to pro- 
tect ''Southern rights," the convention recommended an article 
of amendment to the Constitution, but this did not meet with sup- 
port in Congress, nor did it go far enough to please the South. 
Furthermore, with Virginia a condition of any agreement had 
been that the right of secession be fully conceded. 

The House on February 11th adopted resolutions requesting 
President Buchanan to communicate his reasons for assembling 
in Washington a large body of troops. Had he any information of 
"a conspiracy upon the part of any portion of the citizens of this 
country" to seize the capital and prevent Lincoln's due inaugura- 
tion? The President referred these matters to Joseph Holt, Ken- 
tuckian and Democrat but stanchly Unionist, who, having served 
as Postmaster-General in Buchanan's Cabinet, had on Floyd's de- 
parture taken over the portfolio of War. 

Holt in his reply of the 18th said that on the basis of informa- 
tion "from many parts of the country" and "of a most conclusive 
character" he believed in the existence of an organization that pur- 
posed to seize Washington. He aptly pointed out that for three 
months open revolution had in fact been in progress in the South. 

9 Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives, 36th Cong., 2nd sess., 
vol. ii, rept. 79; pp. 3-19, 125, 132-139, 166-178. 

From a photograph by Matthew Brady U. S. Signal Corps 



This view from the west shows the uncompleted dome, the "open ditch" of Tiber 
Creek, and (in the middle distance) the "National Greenhouses" 


The President in a special message to the House (March 1st) sub- 
mitted that, exclusive of marines properly stationed at the Navy 
Yard, the troops numbered in grand total but 653! This small 
force was to "act as a posse comitatus, in strict subordination to the 
civil authority, for the purpose of preserving peace and order in 
the city of Washington, should this be necessary before or at the 
period of the inauguration of the President-elect." 

He insisted that not only the peace and order of the city and 
the security of the inauguration but also the safety of Federal prop- 
erty and of government archives demanded that he adopt "pre- 
cautionary measures." Unfavorable though its location might be in 
many respects, Washington had to be maintained as the seat of 
government. If so maintained, it must be defended against cap- 
ture, and the government must be protected from affront or harm. 

When the electoral votes were counted on February 13th, Scott, 
as good as his word, had soldiers on guard at every entrance to the 
Capitol. Besides representatives and senators, no one was ad- 
mitted but those holding tickets signed by the Speaker or the Vice- 
President. In front of the Old Capitol two battalions of artillery 
were stationed. A noisy mob had been streaming in from Virginia 
and Maryland to fraternize with the local rabble and await events; 
but Breckinridge, as presiding officer of the Senate, duly an- 
nounced his rival's election, and the day ended without a clash. 

Washington's Birthday was celebrated in Washington's own 
Federal City far less impressively and spontaneously than had been 
usual. The militia paraded in the morning; the regulars in the 
afternoon, and not in mass formation but as detached units. Even 
so, John Tyler formally rebuked Buchanan because United States 
troops had been allowed to march at all. 

In faraway Springfield, February 1 1 th dawned gloomily, with a 
cold rain falling. At five minutes before eight Abraham Lincoln 
stepped from the depot of the Great Western Railway to his spe- 
cial train of a baggage car and a coach. On the rear platform of the 
coach he removed his tall hat and for an appreciable time stood 
silent. Among the thousand neighbors there gathered to bid him 
farewell, every man waited with bared head. 

Then in the manner distinctive of him at his best— a manner, as 


Lord Charnwood has well said, like that of great drama— Lincoln 
began to speak. "No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my 
feeling of sadness at this parting." The words moved in a somber 
cadence. . . . "I now leave, not knowing when or whether ever I 
may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested 
upon Washington. . . ." 

His route lay through Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Columbus, 
Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo. Under date of February ist, Wash- 
ington's Mayor Berret, troubled by unverified reports, had written 
to John W. Garrett, president of the Baltimore and Ohio Rail- 

I learn that the President Elect until very recently contemplated 
passing over your road from Wheeling to this city, and that owing to 
rumored intentions on the part of citizens of Maryland and Virginia 
to interfere with his travel to our Capital, you were induced to make 
diligent inquiry as to the truth of these threats. If correctly informed, 
will you do me the favor to state the result of your inquiries touching 
this matter? 

In a toplofty screed that reads like puffery from the road's ad- 
vertising department, Garrett had replied that there was not and 
never had been the least foundation for any of the rumors to 
which Berret referred. 

They are the simple inventions of those who are agents in the West 
for other lines, and are set on foot more with a hope of interfering 
with the trade and travel on the shortest route to the seaboard than 
with any desire to promote the safety and comfort of the President 
elect. . . . 

Our road is regarded, both in Maryland and Virginia, as a monu- 
ment of the common enterprise of their people and as the means of a 
common prosperity. This feeling is of itself sufficient to protect the 
travel and freight of the road from all annoyance. I can only regret that 
the purpose of the President elect to travel by another route should 
give countenance to stories which are in every respect unfounded. 

You may be assured that whatever is done in Maryland, in view of 
the unhappy crisis existing in the country, will be done with a steady 
regard to all the rights of persons and property of all sections of the 

Thus the dogmatic Garrett, not neglectful of the sweet uses of 
publicity but decidedly without prophetic gift. 


Berret furnished the correspondence to Washington's National 
Intelligencer, which tartly commented that public hospitalities 
had been tendered Lincoln by many towns not on the line of the 
B. & O., and that there was nothing to show he ever had designed 
to go by Garrett's road. It added that Buchanan would have been 
"derelict in public duty" if he had not taken "precautionary meas- 
ures" against possible disorder on or before March 4th. "Very idle 
seemed the intimation conveyed to Mr. Secretary Floyd in an 
anonymous letter foreshadowing the descent of John Brown on 
Harper's Ferry, but subsequent events proved that a small force at 
that point would have been more effective to preserve the public 
property than any letter signed by the President of that road." 10 

The traveling party included Mrs. Lincoln; the three boys- 
Willie, Tad (christened Thomas, nicknamed Tadpole), and Rob- 
ert; John G. Nicolay, Lincoln's secretary, and Nicolay's assistant, 
John Hay; Judge David Davis, one of Lincoln's campaign 
managers; Capt. John Pope and Maj. David Hunter; the pic- 
turesque Ephraim E. Ellsworth, who had read law in Lincoln's 
office and for whom Lincoln was soon to mourn; the Hon. Nor- 
man B. Judd, close personal friend and trusted adviser; Col. Ed- 
win V. Sumner, a testy veteran of the Mexican War; and that 
prairie giant Ward H. Lamon, a partner of Lincoln's and by him- 
self regarded as his chief's particular escort, bodyguard, and fidus 

Stories got about of an attempt to wreck the train between 
Springfield and Indianapolis, of a hand grenade discovered in a 
carpetbag. But Lamon records that none on board ever heard of 
these "murderous doings." Neither Lamon nor anyone else of the 
party then knew that Judd had received at Cincinnati a letter from 
Baltimore— a letter that made upon him a deep impression. 11 

In the state house at Columbus, Lincoln and his suite were 
nearly crushed. As the party left Pittsburg the "solid mass" of 
spectators was "almost impenetrable." Matters at Buffalo were 
worse— much worse. There a welcoming crowd of some ten thou- 
sand had gathered at the station, and so inadequate were police 
arrangements that, when the party detrained, the wildest confu- 

10 Feb. 6 (p. 3) and 7 (p. 3). 

"Lamon's "Life of Abraham Lincoln"; p. 507. 


sion ensued. In getting to the carriages, Major Hunter had a shoul- 
der dislocated. Only through the efforts of those immediately 
around him did Lincoln himself escape injury. These experiences 
were object lessons as to the tragic helplessness of a few individuals 
when hustled in this fashion. At Buffalo a second letter from Balti- 
more was delivered to Judd, who still kept his own counsel. 12 

From Buffalo to Albany it was a triumphal jaunt. There were 
bands; dignitaries with ribbon badges; more bands; torchlight pro- 
cessions; a live eagle. The run of thirty-seven miles from Buffalo 
to Batavia was scheduled at thirty minutes— a display of exuber- 
ance that must have given the party a good shaking. After leaving 
Utica, it was observed that the "Illinois prodigy" had donned a 
new coat and hat. As the train entered Schenectady a cannon was 
fired and in one car several window panes were broken. 

In the evening of Monday, February 18, Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln 
received at Albany's Delavan House. That very night at the little 
Gayety Theatre on Green Street a young actor— astonishingly 
young for stardom— was opening the second week of his first en- 
gagement in the city. He had put up at Stanwix Hall, where he 
had been so outspoken in his extreme secessionist views that the 
Gayety's management was annoyed. 

"Is not this a Democratic city?" he asked Treasurer Cuyler. 

"Democratic, yes," Cuyler answered. "But disunion— no!" 13 

It is unlikely that Lincoln and he set eyes upon each other at 
this time. The day was to come when their paths would cross— in 
that strange maelstrom of Washington. Of Lincoln the Albany 
Atlas and Argus (Democratic) remarked editorially: 

He does not look as if he had the bodily vigor to stand the pressure 
upon him. He evidently has not the superiority of nature which com- 
pels respect and commands isolation, even amid crowds. Rude hands 
jostled him and his underlings commanded him; and all about him the 
struggle was who was to control him, no one feeling too low for the 
task! 1* 

At Troy the party changed from the Northern Railroad to the 

"New York Times, Feb. 16, 18; Evening Post (New York), Feb. 18; New York 
Daily News, Feb. 18. 

13 H. B. Phelps, "Players of a Century. A Record of the Albany Stage"; pp. 324 
et seq. 

14 Feb. 20; p. 2. 


Hudson River line. Outwardly the President's car, "one of the 
handsomest, perhaps, ever run in this country," was trimmed with 
bunting and national flags, and its interior was draped in blue be- 
spangled with silver stars. The wood-burning locomotive "Union" 
(like steamboats, American locomotives in those days had their 
names) was also generously bedecked. Thus in splendor Lincoln 
drew down to New York, where, not quite a year before, he had 
won his audience in Cooper Union. 15 Long afterward, Dr. Theo- 
dore Cuyler told of seeing him as he stood in the barouche that 
took him slowly down Broadway to the Astor House— "the most 
august and majestic figure that my eyes have ever beheld." To 
Cuyler, thinking back, he had "a solemn, faraway look, as if he 
discerned the toils and trials that awaited him." "There was very 
little cheering as Mr. Lincoln passed," wrote George William 
Curtis, "and he looked at the people with a weary, melancholy air, 
as if he felt already the heavy burden of his duty." 16 

Mayor Fernando Wood in a homily of greeting at the City Hall 
struck no highly exalted note. "All her [New York's] material in- 
terests," he informed his guest, "are paralyzed. Her commercial 
greatness is endangered. . . . We fear that if the Union dies, the 
present supremacy of New York may perish with it." He hoped the 
new President would prove equal to the crisis, but manifestly was 
none too sanguine. 

Phineas Barnum, whose American Museum was at Broadway 
and Ann Street, diagonally across from the Astor House, an- 
nounced on the 20th: 


Mr. Barnum that he will positively 


Those who would see him should come early. 

Never, perhaps, in all his adventurous career, did the great show- 
man surpass the audacity of this touch. . . . Though the Presi- 
dent-elect was unable to appear with the other exhibits, Robert 

15 Henry C. Bowen, publisher of the Independent, thought that "More zealous 
Republicans were probably made within twenty-four hours after the delivery of 
that speech than existed before in the whole city." 

"Cuyler's "Recollections of a Long Life"; p. 142. Curtis* letter to Prof. R. R. 
Wright (first published in the Independent of Apr. 4, 1895). 


dropped in during the morning, Mrs. Lincoln went, and the two 
juvenile Lincolns sat with Barnum in his private box in the Lec- 
ture Room to view that thrilling novelty "The Woman in White." 

In the evening there was a performance of grand opera at the 
Academy of Music. Signor Muzio, impresario and conductor, ad- 
vertised a "Grand Gala Night," promising enthusiastically that 
the building would be illuminated "as on the occasion of the 
Prince of Wales Ball." Lincoln and those with him (Mrs. Lincoln 
was presiding at an Astor House reception) occupied a roomy 
proscenium box on the right-hand side of the house. The Misses 
Phillips and Hinckley sang "The Star-Spangled Banner," a large 
flag descended from the flies, Lincoln bowed and "with evident 
satisfaction" gestured toward the colors. The piece was Verdi's 
new opus "Un Ballo in Maschera," with Brignoli in the cast. The 
libretto dealt with the murder of a ruler— to be sure, an admitted 

The younger Lincolns, accompanied by a nurse and a police 
officer, went to Laura Keene's Theatre. There the attractions were 
"Seven Sisters," with elaborate scenic effects, and "Uncle Sam's 
Magic Lantern," a series of historical tableaux. Miss Keene was a 
gifted woman, known not only as an uncommonly intelligent 
actress but also as manager and playwright. In 1858 she had pro- 
duced in New York with outstanding success Tom Taylor's "Our 
American Cousin," in which Jefferson had appeared as Asa 
Trenchard and E. A. Sothern made a hit as Lord Dundreary. 

Meanwhile, Norman Judd had been attending to confidential 
business. Not long after the party arrived at the Astor House, he 
learned that a lady wished to see him. She presented a note of in- 
troduction from Allan Pinkerton, founder and principal of 
Pinkerton's National Detective Agency, and she proved to be Mrs. 
Kate Warne, superintendent of Pinkerton's women operatives. 
Pinkerton had written the two letters from Baltimore that Judd 
had received en route, and Mrs. Warne had been sent to arrange 
an interview between the men. Judd told her he would accompany 
Lincoln from the Philadelphia station to the Continental Hotel; 
and it was settled that Pinkerton would then specify a meeting 

Early on the morning of the 21st, in a special ferryboat— with, 


of course, the inescapable band— the party crossed to Jersey City. 
Thence it went by the New Jersey Railroad to Newark, where 
there was a parade of a mile along Broad Street from the upper sta- 
tion to the lower; then by way of New Brunswick and Princeton to 
Trenton, where Lincoln addressed both senate and assembly and 
a banquet was held in the Trenton House; and on to Philadelphia. 
As Lincoln was riding toward the Continental Hotel, where the 
Prince of Wales suite had been reserved for him, a young man ran 
to the side of the carriage and gave Judd a bit of paper on which 

St. Louis Hotel. Ask for J. H. Hutchinson. 

Nearly upsetting two officers, George Burns of the American Tele- 
graph Company had without difficulty got by the police lines, but 
it happened that his errand was peaceful. 

In "Hutchinson's" room Judd found Allan Pinkerton and Sam- 
uel M. Felton, president of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and 
Baltimore Railroad— the only direct route from the North to Bal- 
timore. For over an hour the three consulted, then Judd proposed 
that Pinkerton and he have a talk with Lincoln. At the Conti- 
nental a reception was in full swing, and lobby and stairways were 
jammed. Pinkerton and Judd went by the servants' entrance to 
Judd's room on the second floor and Lincoln was summoned from 
his interminable handshaking. He came, forcing his way along the 
corridor, and the door was shut. 

It was an incredulous Lincoln— incredulous but not alarmed— 
who heeded and questioned. The story unfolded to him was one 
that by some writers has been slightingly dismissed as implausible 
if not preposterous. It led to an episode of definite significance in 
Lincoln's life— bound up in many ways with Lincoln's mortal fate; 
but both story and episode have been so garbled and belied as to 
form a kind of prologue to the Great American Myth. 

According to the published schedule, Lincoln next day (Wash- 
ington's Birthday) was to raise a new flag over Independence Hall 
at six in the morning (urban Americans rose earlier then)— a flag 
with thirty-four stars, the latest being for Kansas. He would then 
go by the Pennsylvania Central to Harrisburg, where he would 


address the legislature. The day following (Saturday), he was to 
travel by special train over the Northern Central from Harrisburg 
to Baltimore, reaching Baltimore at about one in the afternoon. 
From the Calvert depot, at the northeast corner of Calvert and 
Franklin Streets, he was to ride with Mayor Brown in an open 
carriage to the Eutaw House, and after dinner there he would 
leave for Washington at three by special train from the Camden 
Street station of the Baltimore and Ohio. 17 Pinkerton and Judd 
were of one mind: this itinerary must now be revised. Lincoln's 
own account of the discussion is forthright and circumstantial. 

"Pinkerton," he said, "informed me that a plan had been laid 
for my assassination, the exact time when I expected to go through 
Baltimore being publicly known. He was well informed as to the 
plan, but did not know that the conspirators would have pluck 
enough to execute it. He urged me to go right through with him 
to Washington that night. I didn't like that. I had made engage- 
ments to visit Harrisburg, and go from there to Baltimore, and I 
resolved to do so. I could not believe that there was a plot to mur- 
der me. I made arrangements, however, with Mr. Judd for my re- 
turn to Philadelphia the next night, if I should be convinced that 
there was danger in going through Baltimore. I told him that if I 
should meet at Harrisburg, as I had at other places, a delegation 
to go with me to the next place (then Baltimore), I should feel 
safe, and go on." 18 

Judd says he told Lincoln: "If you follow the course suggested 
—of proceeding to Washington to-night— you will necessarily be 
subjected to the scoffs and sneers of your enemies and the disap- 
proval of your friends, who cannot be made to believe in the 
existence of so desperate a plot." Lincoln answered resignedly that 
he "could stand anything that was necessary," but said it was im- 
possible for him to go that night. 

In the crowd that milled about the halls and parlors he en- 
countered Frederick Seward. "We went together to my room," 
related Lincoln, "when he told me that he had been sent, at the 
instance of his father and General Scott, to inform me that their 

" Between Camden, Howard, Lee, and Eutaw Streets. 

18 B. J. Lossing, "The Pictorial Field Book of the Civil War"; vol. i, pp. 279-280. 
Lincoln gave the account verbally to Lossing at the White House in December 
1864, and it is "substantially in his own words." 


detectives in Baltimore had discovered a plot there to assassinate 
me. They knew nothing of Mr. Pinkerton's movements. I now 
believed such a plot to be in existence." 

Lincoln's brief speech at the morrow's ceremony held in its end- 
ing an allusion to all this. Often, he said, he had asked himself 
what it was that from the first had kept the young Confederation 
together. He had found the answer in "that sentiment in the 
Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the 
people of this country, but, I hope, to the world for all future time. 
[Great applause.] It was that which gave promise that in due time 
the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men." He con- 

Now, my friends, can this country be saved upon that basis? If it can, 
I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world — if I can 
help to save it. . . . But if this country cannot be saved without giving 
up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on 
this spot than surrender it. [Applause.] 

The audience filling Chestnut Street clapped hands but could not 
know what prompted such expression. Thenceforward, with other 
visions that crossed the brooding soul of Abraham Lincoln, rose 
at times the vision of sudden death. 

At nine-thirty he left for Harrisburg. On the way, Judd un- 
folded to him alone the plan determined on, adding that as a 
matter of courtesy the other members of the party should later be 
conferred with in so serious a case. Lincoln said, "I reckon they'll 
laugh at us, Judd." Harrisburg was reached at two, and Lincoln 
spoke from the balcony of the Jones House to a crowd of five thou- 
sand. (Next day's New York Herald remarked, "No terms are too 
severe to characterize the conduct of the crowd about the hotel 
and the arrangements there.") Then he addressed the legislature, 
and a reception was held at the state house, and after the reception 
a conclave went into session at the hotel. 

Judd stated the matter and lively argument ensued. Judge 
Davis, a jurist of parts (he was later an associate justice of the 
Supreme Court), after putting some sharp queries to Judd, turned 
to Lincoln and asked, "Well, Mr. Lincoln, what is your judg- 

Lincoln said, "The appearance of Mr. Frederick Seward, with 


warning from another source, confirms my belief in Mr. Pinker- 
ton's statement. ... I am disposed to carry out Judd's plan." He 
was "very calm, and neither in his conversation or manner ex- 
hibited alarm or fear." 

"It is against my judgment," interjected Colonel Sumner, "but 
I have undertaken to go to Washington with Mr. Lincoln and I 
shall do it." The group adjourned to dinner. 19 

At about six o'clock Lincoln was called from the dining table. 
He went to his room and presently came down wearing an over- 
coat into a pocket of which he had stuck a soft felt hat. The hat had 
been given to him in New York and for night travel would cer- 
tainly be more comfortable than would a tall, inflexible beaver. 
Over one arm he carried a shawl such as he had worn in Spring- 
field when he went to market of a winter's morning, basket in 
hand; such as then and afterward was frequently worn by men in 
cold or wet. Preceded by the burly Lamon, he walked arm-in-arm 
with Governor Curtin out of a side entrance and entered a waiting 
carriage. Close behind was Colonel Sumner, and Judd tapped him 
on the shoulder. Sumner turned— and away went the carriage 
down Second Street as if to the Governor's mansion, on the north 
side of Second just south of Chestnut. The Colonel was furious, 
but it had been thought best that Lamon should be Lincoln's only 

Past the Governor's mansion the carriage moved on to where 
the Pennsylvania Central crossed Second Street. There in the dusk 
an engine with one car stood ready, but the oil-lamps in the car 
were not lighted. Immediately the signal was given for the run to 
West Philadelphia. The passengers, besides Lincoln and Lamon, 
were Enoch Lewis, the road's general superintendent; G. C. Fran- 
ciscus, division superintendent; T. E. Garrett, general baggage 
agent; and John Pitcairn, Jr., telegraph operator, who had with 
him an instrument, so that he could tap the wires if that should be 

They rode in darkness with no stop except at Downingtown for 

"Judd's letter to Pinkerton from Chicago, Nov. 3, 1867. This may be read in the 
brochure "History and Evidence," issued by the Pinkerton Agency for compli- 
mentary distribution; or in the Rev. Arthur Edwards' "Sketch of the Life of 
Norman B. Judd"; pp. 11-17. 


the engine to take on water. Telegraph wires along the line of the 
Northern Central between Harrisburg and Baltimore had been 
grounded, so that no message could pass over them; and H. E. 
Thayer, local manager of the American Telegraph Company, was 
on duty all night at Philadelphia, to see that no dispatches passed 
to Baltimore that way. 

The sleeping car was already an American institution. Berths 
had been reserved for Mrs. Warne of the Pinkerton Agency at the 
rear of the "sleeper" attached to the Baltimore train leaving Phila- 
delphia at ten-fifty. She had explained that an invalid brother 
would be with her, and a curtain was therefore hung across that 
end of the car and permission given to enter by the rear door. Con- 
ductor Litzenberg had orders to hold the train until Superin- 
tendent Kenney personally handed him an important parcel that 
President Felton was sending to E. J. Allen at Willard's in Wash- 

At West Philadelphia, Kenney and Pinkerton met Lamon and 
Lincoln, and the four were driven across the city to the depot of 
the Philadelphia, Washington and Baltimore. Kenney handed the 
package to the conductor, who at once started his train— only five 
minutes behind time. Litzenberg was blissfully ignorant that the 
package was made up of old newspapers, that E. J. Allen was Allan 
Pinkerton, and that the ten-fifty bore Abraham Lincoln one stage 
farther upon his extraordinary journey. Lincoln forthwith turned 
in and the miles were covered without incident. At Baltimore the 
car was drawn by horses from the President Street station along 
Pratt Street and down Howard to the Camden station of the Balti- 
more and Ohio. 20 The town seemed peaceable enough save for an 
inebriate roaring a stanza of "Dixie." "Quietly and rather sadly" 
Lincoln spoke from his berth: "No doubt there will be a great 
time in Dixie by and by." 

The rail trip from Baltimore to Washington took in those days 
not less than an hour and a half. The Washington branch, com- 
pleted in 1835, left the main line at the Relay House. Its stone 
viaduct over the Patapsco was justly considered a fine work of en- 
gineering. At about six on the morning of February 23rd, Lincoln 

30 The P., W. & B. station was at the corner of President Street and Canton Avenue. 


and his companions stepped down to the platform of the super- 
fluously ugly old station on New Jersey Avenue at North C Street, 
not far from the Capitol. Lincoln was wearing his felt hat and had 
the shawl over his shoulders. We must remember that he was not 
yet imaged in the popular consciousness. With his informal head- 
gear and a nascent and disfiguring beard, he might well have been 
unrecognized by strangers, but those at all familiar with his ap- 
pearance could hardly have mistaken him. 

Suddenly a voice— part Maine, part Illinois— was heard to say, 
"You can't come that on me, Abe!" It was the voice of his friend 
Representative Elihu Washburne of Galena. Frederick Seward 
had telegraphed from Philadelphia "a word previously agreed 
upon," and Secretary Seward was on hand with a carriage. The 
Secretary wrote home that day: 

The President-elect arrived incog, at six this morning. I met him at 
the depot; and after breakfast introduced him to the President and 
Cabinet, and then I proceeded with him to call on General Scott. . . . 
He is very cordial and kind toward me — simple, natural and agreeable. 

Thousands of Washingtonians had decided that, weather favoring, 
they would witness Lincoln's entry on Saturday afternoon. But 
long before noon it was noised about that already he was at Wil- 
lard's, and gradually this became certain. 

At the Peace Convention in Willard's Hall that day, L. E. Chit- 
tenden (afterward Register of the Treasury) sat, he said, between 
Waldo Johnson of Missouri and James A. Seddon (later Confed- 
erate Secretary of War). Johnson's Negro attendant brought a 
scrap of paper on which Chittenden could not help reading: 

Lincoln is in this hotel! 

Johnson exclaimed, "How the devil did he get through Balti- 
more?" Seddon growled back, "What would prevent his passing 
through Baltimore?" 21 

Hearsay was that before the Peace Convention broke up, Lin- 
coln's presence had for some reason been desired; or that govern- 
ment officials had telegraphed Lincoln to shift his time of arrival 
because the Republican Club of Baltimore had purposed a demon- 

21 "Recollections of President Lincoln"; pp. 65-66. 


stration in his honor, their political opponents had determined to 
prevent it, and trouble seemed likely. "Our own solution," volun- 
teered the National Intelligencer, "is that under all the circum- 
stances ... he deemed it would be best to avoid all chances of 
turmoil, and at the same time to be relieved of all further demon- 
strations, of which his journey had already been amply full." 22 

Another version was that a political group in Baltimore had ar- 
ranged to escort Lincoln in procession and had applied to Marshal 
George P. Kane for police protection. Kane had objected, but 
without success, that a brawl might occur and indignities be of- 
fered the President-elect. He had thought, too, that the citizens of 
Baltimore would be placed in a false light, inasmuch as they did 
not sympathize with Mr. Lincoln's political views. Thereupon, 
gentlemen "who had the good name of Baltimore chiefly at heart" 
begged Lincoln by telegraph not to tarry within their borders. 23 

Over the country had spread a special dispatch filed at Harris- 
burg at eight in the morning of Saturday the 23rd by the New 
York Times' correspondent, Joseph Howard, Jr. Reprinted, either 
wholly or in part, by many other newspapers, it was so widely 
digested by the man-in-the-street as to establish a legend. It pic- 
tured the infuriated Colonel Sumner as "weeping with indigna- 
tion"; stated that Lincoln had left at nine o'clock of the preceding 
evening, attended by "Superintendent Lewis and one friend"; and 
included the historic sentence: "He wore a Scotch plaid cap and 
a very long military cloak, so that he was entirely unrecogniza- 
ble." 24 

This was an irresistible morsel for the cartoonists, who there- 
after were to be amusedly busy with 

His length of shambling limb, his furrow'd face. 

There were gibes about the "great shirt-tail plot." Bennett's 
Herald 25 chuckled, "The 'Scotch cap,' we dare say, was furnished 
by Gen. [Simon] Cameron, from his relics of the Highland clan 
of his ancestors, and the military cloak was probably furnished by 

23 Feb. 25, 1861; p. 3 — The delegates to the Convention called upon him in a 
body on the night of the 23rd. The Convention adjourned on the 27th. 

23 New York Times, Feb. 25; p. 1 (Washington correspondence). 

24 Times, Feb. 25; p. 1. First printed in an extra edition on the 23rd. 

25 Feb. 24, 27. 


Col. Sumner." It suggested that Old Abe "cut Washington alto- 
gether, and return to New York, where he can be inaugurated 
magnificently under the auspices of Barnum, either at his down 
town establishment or at the Academy of Music— admittance 
twenty-five cents." . . . The Daily News 26 referred to "The Great 
Runaway" and "The Flight of Abraham," saying that in New 
York it was all regarded "as a joke of the largest dimensions." 
From Albany the Atlas and Argus 21 stormed: "This termination 
of his journey, by a flight under cover of darkness, disguised in 
old clothes, is inglorious and disgraceful." From Columbus the 
weekly Crisis sent its echo. So late as June 1864, in a speech at 
Hamilton, Ohio, the egregious Vallandigham, who had sneaked 
back from Canada to take part in the McClellan campaign, woke 
laughter and applause by boasting, "... I did not come here in a 
plaid cap or long military cloak." 28 

The Confederate agent Mrs. Rose Greenhow of Maryland re- 
galed British readers with such pabulum as this: 

Excited and absurd discussions and plans were made at Washington 
and other places as to the means by which he should reach the capital. 
Lincoln had, however, formed a plan of his own, and, having far more 
reticence than had been ascribed to him by his partisans, executed it 
whilst these discussions were going on, and suddenly appeared at Wash- 
ington, at six o'clock, under the disguise of a "Scotch cap and cloak," 
announcing himself with characteristic phraseology in the apartments 
of his sleeping Committee of Safety at Willard's Hotel with — "Hillo! 
Just look at me! By jingo, my own dad wouldn't know me!" 29 

W. H. ("Bull Run") Russell, correspondent of the London Times, 
perplexedly jotted down: "People take particular pleasure in tell- 
ing how he [Lincoln] came toward the seat of his Government dis- 
guised in a Scotch cap and cloak, whatever that may mean." Re- 
joicing after the first Bull Run, the Richmond Daily Whig 
expanded on the "Alarm at Washington." "Old Scott and Lin- 

20 Feb. 25, 26, 27. 

27 Feb. 25. 

28 "The War of the Rebellion" (Official Records), series II, vol. vii; p. 332. 

29 "My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolition Rule at Washington" 
(London); p. 14. — Mrs. Greenhow hated Pinkerton and all his works — especially 
her own arrest; for it was through him she had been ordered to the Old Capitol 


coin," it noted, "were not visible, perhaps they were adjusting dis- 
guises to make good their escape." 30 

Some years later the New York Times confessed that "an officer 
entered the room of our correspondent at the hotel [in Harris- 
burg] and informed him of what had occurred, but would not 
permit him to leave the room until morning, by which time Mr. 
Lincoln had arrived in Washington." 31 No wonder a contem- 
porary said of Howard, "Give him a hook and he will hang more 
yarn upon it than any man not closely related to Baron Mun- 
chausen." 32 One analyst declared: 

This Scotch cap and cloak business is surely the most incongruous 
and sensational that newspaper readers were ever called upon to be- 
lieve. It is unfortunate, perhaps, for the life of this well-imagined story 
that subsequent disclosures have tended to deprive it of that beauty 
and force which it might be supposed to derive from its historical 
truth. 33 

There was no "cloak," military or other. The felt hat may have 
had what is known in America as a "Scotch plaid" pattern, but it 
was not a Scotch bonnet of any sort. 

Howard afterward concocted the notorious "bogus proclama- 
tion" over Lincoln's name, thus getting two New York papers into 
trouble and himself into Fort Lafayette. This proclamation called 
for 400,000 fresh volunteers, conveyed the impression that the 
Union cause was pretty generally in a bad way, and appointed 
May 26th as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer. It was 
printed in the World and the Journal of Commerce. The price of 
gold went up (which presumably was the intention) and there was 
an incipient panic. In the Gay 'Nineties, features of the New York 
Recorder were "Howard's Letter" on Sundays and "Howard's 
Column" during the week. We catch a passing view of this jour- 
nalistic lion in 1893 at th e celebrated trial of Miss Lizzie Borden, 
where he was primus inter pares— the most conspicuous among 
gentlemen of the press. 

30 Aug. 6, 1861; p. 2. 

31 Oct. 31, 1867; p. 2. 

32 Daily News, Feb. 26, 1861; p. 4. 

M New York Leader, July 10, 1869; p. 3. (From an article by Kenward Philp in 
the Brooklyn Monthly for July.) 


By those who affect to pooh-pooh the idea that Lincoln, had he 
gone through Baltimore as scheduled, might really have been in 
danger, the origin of that idea is attributed chiefly to a "vain- 
glorious detective"— in short, to Allan Pinkerton. In 1861 Pinker- 
ton, a stocky Scot who had immigrated to Illinois, was the prin- 
cipal of Pinkerton's National Detective Agency, which he founded 
in 1850. This pioneer agency of his, with headquarters in Chicago, 
had done highly successful work for express companies and rail- 
ways. George B. McClellan, president of the Ohio and Mississippi 
Railroad, had employed Pinkerton and thought well of him. It was 
quite natural that with such a record he should be retained in an 
emergency by President Felton of the Philadelphia, Wilmington 
and Baltimore. 

Felton had reason to believe that the rougher element among 
Maryland's secessionists meant to destroy railway property and in- 
terfere with the service. As his road was an essential link between 
New York and Washington, he realized that, in the existing state 
of the nation, traffic ought not to be interrupted. He sent for Pink- 
erton, who established offices at Baltimore in a building on South 
Street. Operatives were on duty not only in Baltimore but at 
Havre de Grace, Magnolia, and Perrymansville (now Perryman). 
They were especially to search for plots to destroy not only rail- 
way bridges but also the large steamboat that ferried trains across 
the Susquehanna. On the basis of what he shortly learned, Pinker- 
ton recommended that guards be stationed at the ferry and the 
various bridges. He and his men, he says, were sensible of an ob- 
stinate undercurrent of popular feeling against Lincoln; of a grow- 
ing conviction that something ought to be done to prevent the in- 

On February 10th— the day before Lincoln bade farewell to 
Springfield— Pinkerton had from William Stearns, an official of 
Felton's line, the following "tip": 

Yours of the 6th inst. received. I am informed that a son of a dis- 
tinguished citizen of Maryland said that he had taken an oath with 
others to assassinate Mr. Lincoln before he gets to Washington, and 
they may attempt to do it while he is passing over our road. I think you 
had better look after this man if possible. The information is perfectly 


reliable. I have nothing more to say at this time. I shall try to see you 
in a few days. 

This confirmed vague hints that already had been brought to Pink- 
erton, and Felton authorized him to extend the scope of the in- 
quiry. 34 

It was readily discovered, he says, that certain groups, ostensibly 
formed as military units and drilling as such, were actually politi- 
cal clubs. They were associated in a secret organization whose aim 
was not only to further general secessionist propaganda but also by 
Lincoln's assassination to hasten a division of the states. Two of 
Pinkerton's operatives— one at Baltimore and the other, Timothy 
Webster, at Perrymansville— were accepted as members in clubs of 
the kind and thus gained a knowledge of their personnel and de- 
signs. (Subsequently, while Pinkerton, as Major E. J. Allen, was 
head of McClellan's secret service in the Civil War, Tim Webster 
was his most trusted assistant.) 35 

By this time it had been announced that Lincoln would arrive 
in Baltimore via the Northern Central. One plan discussed was 
that there could be a feint, a pretense of disorder in the crowd that 
would surround the Calvert Street depot and fill the narrow streets 
adjoining. The attention of the police would apparently be di- 
verted—conspirators would surge forward— Lincoln would be shot 
at close range. Only a small police squad would be detailed, and 
this would be in sympathy with the undertaking. Shielded by 
friends, the murderer would make for a vessel lying in the basin 
and so escape to a Southern port. 

Nearly a quarter-century afterward, Pinkerton cast this whole 
story into popular form in the early chapters of his partly auto- 
biographical volume "The Spy of the Rebellion." The greater 
portion of his records had meanwhile been destroyed in the Chi- 
cago fire of 1871, and under all the circumstances we should hardly 
expect at every point in this narrative the severest accuracy; but 
numerous witnesses testified to its substantial truth. 

To begin with, we have corroborative letters from Pinkerton's 

34 The text of the letter as given by Stearns himself is in "History and Evidence"; 
p. 24. 

35 See also W. G. Beymer, "On Hazardous Service"; pp. 259-287. 


own files. Eleven of these letters were published by him in 1868, 
shortly after they were written. Not only Felton but such railway- 
men as his subordinates William Stearns and Henry S. Kenney— 
both of whom were not unfamiliar with the Baltimore populace 
—avouch their belief that plans were indeed afoot for Lincoln's 
murder. We now know, also, that a person acquainted "with the 
structure of Southern society and with the working of its political 
machinery" had assured Felton of an extensive conspiracy to seize 
Washington and make impossible the prompt transportation of 
troops. "Mr. Lincoln's inauguration was thus to be prevented, or 
his life was to fall a sacrifice." Felton's informant was the distin- 
guished humanitarian Dorothea Lynde Dix, known and esteemed 
in Maryland, as she was throughout the country, for her wise 
philanthropy. 36 

Furthermore, other detectives than Pinkerton's had likewise 
been busy. John A. Kennedy, superintendent of New York's met- 
ropolitan police, known to his admirers as "Uncle John" or 
"J. A. K." and derisively termed by a Baltimore scribe "the New 
York Vidocq," had in December i860 sent two officers of his de- 
tective bureau to Washington, where trained men were not avail- 
able, and in January 1861 he had taken a third officer. The three 
reported directly to Col. Charles P. Stone of Scott's staff, and he in 
turn to Scott. Colonel Stone later requested that Kennedy assign 
men to Baltimore. Kennedy already had placed two officers there 
on his own responsibility and now added another, David S. Book- 
staver, who assumed to be a music agent while the first two min- 
gled with the local roughs. These three men in Baltimore were 
also to report in person to Colonel Stone. On February 20th Book- 
staver obtained information that caused him to take the next train 
to Washington. 

In a memorandum dated February 21st, Stone wrote as follows: 

A New York detective officer, who has been on duty in Baltimore for 
three weeks reports this morning that there is serious danger of vio- 
lence to, and the assassination of, Mr. Lincoln in his passage through 
that city, should the time of that passage be known. He states that 

38 See also Felton's letter to Lossing ("Pictorial Field Book"; vol. iii, pp. 565-567), 
his statement in W. A. Schouler's "A History of Massachusetts in the Civil War"; 
vol. i, pp. 59-65, and his letter to Francis Tiffany in Tiffany's "Life" of Miss Dix, pp. 


there are banded rowdies holding secret meetings, and that he has 
heard threats of mobbing and violence, and has himself heard men 
declare that if Mr. Lincoln was to be assassinated they would like to be 
the men. ... He deems the danger one which the authorities and people 
in Baltimore cannot guard against. All risk might be easily avoided by 
a change in the traveling arrangements which would bring Mr. Lincoln 
and a portion of his party through Baltimore by a night train without 
previous notice. 37 

About noon of the 21st, Frederick Seward was in the Senate gallery 
when word was sent up to him that his father, Senator Seward, 
wished to see him immediately. It appeared that Colonel Stone 
had just brought a note from Scott. To Frederick the Senator 
handed a letter addressed to Lincoln, enclosing both Scott's note 
and Stone's memorandum. 

"Whether this story is well founded or not," he said, "Mr. Lin- 
coln ought to know of it at once. But I know of no reason to doubt 
it. General Scott is impressed with the belief that the danger is real. 
Colonel Stone has facilities for knowing and is not apt to exagger- 
ate. I want you to go by the first train. Find Mr. Lincoln wherever 
he is. 

"Let no one else know your errand. I have written him that I 
think he should change his arrangements, and pass through Balti- 
more at a different hour. I know it may occasion some embarrass- 
ment, and perhaps some ill-natured talk. Nevertheless, I would 
strongly advise him to do it." "Public Man" confided to his diary: 
"I do not believe one word of the cock-and-bull story . . . which 
Mr. Seward told me to-day had been communicated to Mr. Lin- 
coln as coming from General Scott." . . . He was, of course, ut- 
terly at fault in adding, ". . . It was clear to me that Mr. Seward 
himself did not believe one word of it." 38 

It was after ten that night when Frederick Seward was able to 
give Lincoln the letter with its enclosures. Lincoln sat down by a 
gas-lamp and thoughtfully read them all twice through before be- 
ginning to ask questions. Frederick said that personally he knew 
nothing as to how the information had been gained or who might 
be suspected. 

"Did you," Lincoln queried, "hear any names mentioned? Did 

"Nicolay and Hay; vol. iii, pp. 311-312 (from the MS.). 
88 North America?! Review, Sept. 1879; pp. 259-260. 


you, for instance, ever hear anything said about such a name as 

No, Frederick answered— the only names he had heard were 
those of Stone and Scott. After a moment, Lincoln continued: 

"I may as well tell you why I ask. There were stories or rumors 
some time ago, before I left home, about people who were intend- 
ing to do me a mischief. I never attached much importance to 
them— never wanted to believe any such thing. So I never would 
do anything about them, in the way of taking precautions and the 
like. Some of my friends, though, thought differently— Judd and 
others— and without my knowledge they employed a detective to 
look into the matter. It seems he has occasionally reported what he 
found, and only today, since we arrived at this house, he brought 
this story, or something similar to it, about an attempt on my life 
in the confusion and hurly-burly of the reception at Baltimore. 

"That is exactly why I was asking you about names. If different 
persons, not knowing of each other's work, have been pursuing 
separate clues that led to the same result, why then it shows there 
may be something in it." . . . 39 

A letter from Kennedy to the historian Lossing was printed 
widely and in full in American newspapers. In quoting from this, 
Pinkerton mistakenly attributed to Kennedy the words, "I know 
nothing of any connection of Mr. Pinkerton with the matter." To 
which Pinkerton responded: "In this respect, Mr. Kennedy spoke 
the truth: he did not know of my connection with the passage of 
Mr. Lincoln, nor was it my intention that he should know of it." 
The words were, in fact, Stone's, and Kennedy had so given them; 
but it remains equally true that Kennedy at the time had known 
no more of Pinkerton than Pinkerton knew of Kennedy. Oddly 
enough, however, the two, each quite unaware of the other, were 
on opposite sides of that dividing curtain in the sleeping-car from 
Philadelphia to Washington. 

Something has been made of the fact that in the "Life of Abra- 
ham Lincoln" which Chauncey F. Black ghost-wrote for Ward 

39 Lossing, "Pictorial Field Book"; vol. ii, pp. 147-149. New York Times, Oct. 
31, 1867; p. 2. Nicolay and Hay; vol. iii, pp. 302-316. F. W. Seward, "Seward at 
Washington"; pp. 508-511, and "Recollections"; pp. 134-139. See also "Abraham 
Lincoln. Tributes from His Associates"; pp. 60-65. 


Lamon, Lamon after ten years of implicit belief professed to have 
decided that there had been not only no conspiracy but "no defi- 
nite purpose in the heart of even one man to murder Mr. Lincoln 
at Baltimore." Just how this could be "perfectly manifest" is, how- 
ever, nowhere explained. Instead, several pages are devoted to 
ineffectual ridicule of Pinkerton and his operatives. At the same 
time, with a curious inconsistence, the book does seek to involve 
Representative Webster of Maryland and Governor Hicks in a 
supposititious scheme to "kill Lincoln"; and to that end introduces 
a letter ascribed to Hicks but of more than doubtful authenticity. 
Lamon paid Herndon for the use of some of Herndon's papers. 
The book quotes at length from a confidential report of a Pinker- 
ton agent, and states that the original was one of a number lent 
to Herndon by Pinkerton. Though this is possible, the isolated 
report does nothing to promote Lamon's argument. Herndon ap- 
parently did not share the views of the Lamon "Life." Isaac N. 
Arnold also examined the daily reports of Pinkerton's men and 
held a quite different opinion. 40 From Lamon's later and matured 
"Recollections of Abraham Lincoln" these ideas were entirely de- 
leted; and replacing them we have: 

Neither he [Lincoln] nor the country generally then understood the 
true facts concerning the dangers to his life. It is now an acknowledged 
fact that there never was a moment from the day he crossed the Mary- 
land line, up to the time of his assassination, that he was not in danger 
of death by violence. . . . 

It is known that, when leaving Harrisburg, Lamon was a veri- 
table walking arsenal. Possibly his defensive equipment— which is 
said to have included brass knuckles and a sling-shot— supplied 
material for the Daily News' irresponsible charge that "nearly 
every member of the President's suite was armed to the teeth with 
instruments much in use at the South and West, and commonly 
to be found in the breast pockets of gamblers and gentlemen of 
sportive associations and pursuits." After Lincoln had made him 
marshal of the District of Columbia and he had set up as some- 
thing of a detective in his own right, Lamon may for a space have 
resented the notion that his sole presence had not been Lincoln's 
sufficient protection. 

40 See Harper's Magazine, June 1868; p. 123. 


If he had entered Baltimore by day, would Lincoln have been 
murdered? The New York Tribune said editorially that it had 
been credibly informed that for several days stocks were sold in 
Wall Street by persons having "inside" information that he would 
be killed before reaching Washington. 41 Denied their advantages, 
we shall, of course, never know. Even Pinkerton, as he told Lin- 
coln, would not venture to be certain about it. Was there real 
danger, or was this, as some apparently would imply, an elaborate 
hoax contrived by ingenious Baltimoreans? Suppose we look over 
the ground. 

In American cities that was a rowdy, gun-toting age. Cincinnati, 
Boston, New York were among those that had known their mobs. 
At Cincinnati, Birney's presses were repeatedly smashed, and the 
authorities notified Birney that they had no force adequate to pro- 
tect him. In Boston, "gentlemen of property and standing" 
dragged Garrison through the streets at a rope's end. In New York, 
twenty-two persons were killed in the Astor Place riot; the "Ryn- 
ders mob" (so called from Isaiah Rynders, the United States mar- 
shal who abetted it) drove Wendell Phillips from the Broadway 
Tabernacle; the Seventh Regiment was ordered out when Mayor 
Wood and the old municipal police resisted the introduction of 
the metropolitan system. But in the general mind, over a term of 
years, a kind of evil pre-eminence had perhaps been awarded to 

Baltimore, having then a population of about 200,000, was a 
town of charming red-brick Georgian houses with marble steps— 
the home of the renowned clipper ship— a place of wealth, fashion, 
well-kept shops, comfortable hotels distinguished for their cuisine 
—a center of heroic legends and genuine culture. It was also a town 
of cesspools, polluted water, and riots. Rioting had been since 1812 
a common diversion there. 

Relatively minor affairs were that of 1835 and the B. & O. fray 
of 1857. ^ n ^56 and 1859 there were tremendous election melees 
in which firearms, knives, and clubs were freely wielded. Know- 
Nothings and Democrats, "Rip-Raps" and "Reformers"— all 
packed weapons. Even the cobbler's awl became keenly though 
unobtrusively active. Governor Ligon complained to the legisla- 

* Feb. 25; p. 4. 


ture of "a new element in the political controversies of the times, 
which, in my opinion, has been productive of more baneful conse- 
quences . . . than anything which has occurred since the organi- 
zation of our government— I mean the formation and encourage- 
ment of secret political societies." 

The Maryland council of the Know-Nothings, stronger than any 
other, had retained its power longer. Throughout Baltimore, 
Know-Nothing clubs and lodges were active, often with names 
more fitting for Sicilian banditti— names like Blood-Tubs, Plug- 
Uglies, Black Snakes, Red Necks. The Constitutional Union party, 
which held its convention in Baltimore in May i860, was made up 
in part of Know-Nothing odds-and-ends. (It may be noted that all 
three candidates opposed to Lincoln were nominated at conven- 
tions in Baltimore.) Irrespective of politics, unemployed men 
abounded, and barroom champions ready for brawls. The volun- 
teer firemen were a pugnacious lot and hailed a fracas. Jacob Frey, 
himself once a marshal of Baltimore's police, speaks in his "Rem- 
iniscences" (p. 98) of the "horrible atrocities" of the election riots. 
"The Sunpapers of Baltimore" (a symposium by Gerald W. John- 
son and others) refers (p. 59) to the "many casualties" and to the 
"human flotsam" of the town's "turbulent days." 

Buchanan, when traveling from Lancaster to Washington for 
his inaugural in 1857, had a taste of Baltimore's quality. With 
niece Harriet Lane and nephew James B. Hardy, and escorted by 
the Lancaster Fencibles, he was taken in procession from the Bol- 
ton depot of the Northern Central 42 to the City Hotel. For nearly 
an hour roughs hooted and hissed him, stoned his carriage, and 
pelted with brickbats his guard of honor. Declining the proffered 
dinner, he did not linger. In consequence the New York Tribune 
proposed "the construction of an air-line railway post-route from 
the North to Washington City, which shall avoid Baltimore." 43 In 
the evening after Buchanan's inauguration a party of Baltimorean 
visitors in Washington gathered at the corner of Pennsylvania 
Avenue and Sixth Street (where the National Hotel was) and 
fired revolvers, terrifying the citizenry. 44 

*" Above the Calvert Street station. 

"Mar. n, 1857; P- 5- 

"New York Times, Mar. 5, 1857; p. 1. 


Some thought that Baltimore ought to choose public officials 
who would resist and punish wholesale lawlessness; but apparently 
more thought otherwise. The disorderly element became thor- 
oughly accustomed to disorder. The merchants and jobbers, most 
of whose trade was with the South, were, it may be, preoccupied 
with dreams of the day when their city would be the rich metropo- 
lis of a new nation. When Washington's Mayor Berret sounded 
Baltimore's Marshal Kane as to possible indignities— if nothing 
worse— in store for Lincoln, the Marshal, locally a great favorite, 
replied complacently that the "insult offered to President 
Buchanan" was, as everybody knew, "the act of two or three 
members of one of the fanatical clubs of his political opponents 
which at that time infested our city, but which have long since 
been numbered among the things that were." 

Although its better newspapers expressed a pious wish to free 
the Monument City from this lax condition, their methods cannot 
be deemed unqualifiedly happy. On the morning of February 
23rd, 1861, the American sounded this note: 

Mr. Lincoln passes through our city to-day. As the representative of 
political and sectional views which can find but few adherents among 
our people and no sympathy from the masses, the President-elect will 
miss here the popular ovations that have attended every step of his 
progress from Springfield up to the borders of Maryland. 

It was true enough: there had been no greeting from the state, no 
resolutions from its legislature, no invitation from the governor, 
no committee from the municipality. The American felt called 
upon publicly to justify Mayor Brown for even having consented 
to ride with Mr. Lincoln. 

The Sun of the same date, though admitting that Buchanan had 
been "exposed to insult from the ruffian ascendancy of the time," 
argued that this was "a disgrace, not to our city, but to the forms 
of authority which bad men had usurped." Now, it said, "we live 
under a lawful government"— to wit, that of the Breckinridge 
Democracy— "and enjoy again the blessings of civilization." It sup- 
posed that Lincoln, partly because of the "somewhat eccentric 
style" of him— he had been plebeianly grasping "many a dingy 
paw from the 'great unwashed' "—would be "an object of curiosity 


to thousands . . . who, having nothing better to do in this 'arti- 
ficial crisis,' will avail themselves of a free ticket to have a look at 
him." As for the Exchange, it hoped, so far as Lincoln was con- 
cerned, "that no opportunity may be afforded him— or that, if it 
be afforded, he will not embrace it— to repeat in our midst the 
sentiments which he is reported to have expressed yesterday in 
Philadelphia." The overtone of menace here is hardly to be mis- 

It has often been said that next day the remainder of the Lin- 
coln party went through Baltimore without so much as a ripple. 
This is unqualifiedly and absurdly false. 

Long before the "special" from Harrisburg was due, an ill- 
tempered crowd of some 15,000 was massed about the Calvert 
Street station, extending along Calvert to the Battle Monument 
and up the slope of Franklin Street as far as Courtland. At the ap- 
proach of the train there was a wild onset. "The most terrific 
shouts and yells were sent up," chronicled the Republican, "ex- 
celling anything in the way of excitement we have ever witnessed." 
The mob overran the station and swarmed onto the platforms of 
the cars. Marshal Kane's policemen seem not to have been much 
in evidence during the proceedings. 

"Come out, Old Abe!" shouted a medley of voices. "Let's have 
him out!" 

Faces peered in at the windows. Groans and catcalls increased 
at the appearance of the committee of the Republican Association 
that had gone to Pennsylvania to extend solitary courtesies. Two 
of the committee had their hats bashed over their eyes. Carriages 
finally took Mrs. Lincoln and the young Lincolns to the home of 
John S. Gittings, president of the Northern Central, on Mt. Ver- 
non Square. For at least a half-hour the disappointed and vindic- 
tive mob swayed this way and that, "uttering every imaginable 
description of noise." After dinner, the Lincolns were fairly 
smuggled aboard cars held for the party at Camden station. 

They were soon beyond the limits of Baltimore, and from the 
moderates in that city rose a sigh of relief. Though the Sun might 
protest that the conspiracy story was an "infamous lie" and assail 


Governor Hicks for his testimony before the Select Committee of 
Five, the American acknowledged the possibility of considerable 
excitement and "unpleasant" demonstrations. It was pointed out 
that Mr. Lincoln had, after all, avoided what might have been an 
unfortunate occasion. To the brethren in New Orleans the Bal- 
timore correspondent of the Picayune confided: 

We are very well satisfied that Mr. Lincoln assumed the responsibility 
of giving us the slip. ... It is altogether possible some of his Republic 
can friends in our city, had they appeared conspicuously in any parade 
or procession, might have been roughly handled, and had an affray 
commenced in this way, with an ungovernable populace of thousands 
assembled together, none can foretell the consequences. 45 

Less than two months had gone by when events made their own 
definitive comment on the Sun's unsmiling claim of February 26th 
that "there is not, perhaps, in the world, a better governed and 
more orderly city." Marching on April 18th from the Bolton depot 
to the Camden station, five companies of Pennsylvania troops, 
with thirty-four muskets among them and no ammunition, were 
set upon by a mob of 10,000 with stones, brickbats, and bottles. 
This was only practice for the following day. On the 19th the Sixth 
Massachusetts regiment arrived at the President Street station. A 
portion of the regiment was hauled along Pratt Street in the usual 
way, just as Lincoln and his companions had been on the morn- 
ing of February 23rd. The increasing mob thereupon tore up 
pavement and threw heaps of the cobblestones on the track. The 
remaining troops attempted to march toward Camden station and 
cobbles began to fly. At the corner of Pratt and Commerce Streets 
a perfect fusillade of them was poured into the soldiery, who at 
last opened fire. Thus was shed what James Randall in his "Mary- 
land, My Maryland!" saluted as 

the patriotic gore 
That flecked the streets of Baltimore — 

but Randall neglected to mention that blood was shed and lives 
were given by Massachusetts men bound peaceably to their duty. 
After a while Marshal Kane showed up and enjoined the mob to 

45 Mar. 7, 1861. The italics are the present writer's. 


obey the laws. We may repeat the apposite question originally 
framed by Isaac N. Arnold: 

Would a mob that attacked a regiment of armed men have been 
deterred from attacking one man, whom they regarded as a tyrant and 
the chief object of their hatred? 46 

Thus were ushered in the "three glorious days"— days when 
Maryland Guards and City Guards, led by Isaac R. Trimble and 
by Marshal Kane himself, with his policemen to help, burned 
bridges along the northward railway lines; when the police seized 
four carloads of military stores at the President Street depot and 
took them to 38 and 40 Holliday Street, right opposite Marshal 
Kane's office; when somehow small arms in large quantities came 
suddenly from concealment (a Colonel Denson, for instance, sup- 
plying from his warehouse 900 muskets); when the ladies blos- 
somed forth with rosettes and even dolls wore Confederate colors. 

Kane had assured Samuel Felton that all the talk of burning 
bridges was so much nonsense. He was the identical Kane who had 
also politely informed Mayor Berret of Washington that Balti- 
more folk believed the bad old days of mobs and riots were at an 
end, and that the President-elect needed no armed escort while 
passing through Baltimore or sojourning in it. When later the city 
was placed under martial law, he refused to surrender arms in the 
possession of the city authorities and was imprisoned on charges of 
protecting contraband traffic in arms and being head of a force 
hostile to the United States government. On his release he took 
refuge within the Confederate lines, and he remained there until 
the close of the war. Superintendent Kennedy from personal 
knowledge had no faith in him and early in January had cautioned 
friends of the Union to beware of him. 47 Small wonder that Pink- 
erton in February distrusted a police force commanded by Kane 
—a force that even with the best of intentions would have been 
unable to cope with things as they were. 

Several Northern businessmen were told to leave the city. 
". . . A manufacture of hemp" was shown to them, said a local 

46 Harper's Magazine, June 1868; p. 126. 

47 Kane told Kennedy that when Virginia seceded by a convention, Maryland 
would secede "by gravitation." 


paper, and they were assured that if they were found in Baltimore 
after a specified time, one end of the rope would be applied to 
their necks and the other to a lamppost. "Acting upon this hint, 
several Union-shriekers have mysteriously disappeared." . . , 48 
This was in the spirit of Charleston, where on April 12 th the well- 
known portrait painter G. P. A. Healy, who had been finishing a 
portrait of Beauregard, was told by his friends the Frazers that he 
must leave their house as there was talk of tarring and feathering 
the "damn' Yankee." Mayor Allberger of Buffalo, arriving in New 
York from a trip to Baltimore, said that at the Eutaw House he 
had been surrounded and threatened by drunken ruffians and that 
every shop in Baltimore had been emptied of arms by the mob. 49 

It is nothing to the point that some details of the conspiracy 
story may today take on a fantastic quality. That is equally true 
of the original Ku Klux, the Molly Maguires, the I. W. W. Nativist 
societies like the Order of the Star-Spangled Banner or the Order 
of United Americans had their grotesque features. So did the 
Knights of the Golden Circle and their successors. So, for that 
matter, did the Know-Nothings, who for years influenced the 
course of Baltimore's life. 

Nor may Cipriano Ferrandini, whom Pinkerton described as 
among the conspirators, be brushed aside (as he was by Lamon 
and others) merely because he happened to be a barber— as if 
Figaro were not a designing rogue. Lieutenant Smith, Lew Wal- 
lace's chief of detectives, found a Confederate recruiting-office in 
Baltimore in so prosaic and improbable a spot as Christian Em- 
merich's shoe shop on South Gay Street. Ferrandini was, to be sure, 
listed in the Baltimore directory as "hair-dresser, Calvert, under 
Barnum's hotel." But the directory naturally did not add that he 
had been a captain of infantry in Juarez' army in Mexico, that he 
had commanded the Lafayette Guards in Baltimore, that the Select 
Committee of Five had called him before it. He was at that time 
drilling the Constitutional Guards at the headquarters of the Na- 
tional Volunteers— the Volunteers being, he said, a former politi- 
cal association that had donned military trimmings. He thought 

48 The South, Apr. 23; p. 3. 

49 Evening Day-Book, Apr. 22; p. 3. Healy, "Reminiscences of a Portrait Painter"; 
p. 68. 


that if Northern militia tried to go through Baltimore, something 
would happen; and after it did happen, he was elected captain of 
the Winans Guard, attached to the Fifth regiment, Maryland 
Volunteer Infantry. 50 

To most persons, assassination for political reasons was then in 
the United States an incredible business. Henry Sanford, who, as 
representative of the American Telegraph Company, had been at 
the Continental Hotel that night of February 21st, said that in 
those days Americans generally thought such a thing impossible. 
"I went South," he said, ''immediately after this occurrence . . . 
and good men . . . did not credit the story that there was to be 
any attempt to assassinate Mr. Lincoln at Baltimore. ... I am 
happy to put on record my belief that the public authorities, and 
the public men, in the Confederacy at that time would never have 
countenanced it." . . . That such a plot was hatched, however, 
he had not for a moment doubted since the day when first he heard 
of it from Allan Pinkerton. 51 

Pinkerton had worked on this job con amore. He had always 
been a keen Abolitionist, and the "underground railway" was a 
road he had served without pay. He considered John Brown "a 
greater man than Napoleon ever dared to be, and as great a man 
as Washington." In spite of his known anti-slavery principles, his 
ability was such that in Pierce's time Secretary James Guthrie had 
retained him as a detective for the Treasury Department. There 
could scarcely have been vainglory for him in this matter of Lin- 
coln's night trip, his part in which was unknown to the public 
until some years after the war. The military secret service post he 
held in 1861-1862 he owed not to Lincoln or Lincoln's friends but 
to McClellan. He left it when Burnside took command of the 
Army of the Potomac. After that he was for a time occupied in 
running down fraudulent claims against the United States gov- 

Judicious minds saw quickly the prudence of Lincoln's action. 
Realizing his importance to the country, they knew that, had he 

60 Report of the Committee; also The South, Apr. 24, 1861; p. 3. 
51 From the original letter to Robert Pinkerton (New York, May 17, 1892) in the 
Pinkerton files. Sanford was then president of the Adams Express Company. 


risked his life in the face of threatened peril, he would have been 
blamed as foolhardy by many of the same persons who now stig- 
matized him as cowardly. Nevertheless, the general effect had been 
one of anti-climax. Republicans were mortified and chagrined. It 
had been, they felt, an inauspicious beginning, certain to be mis- 
judged by North and South alike. Northern Democrats sneered, as 
Judd had been sure they would. Stanton, Buchanan's Attorney- 
General, said Lincoln was a "low, cunning clown" and had "crept 
into Washington." 52 

Upon Lincoln himself the occurrence left its unequivocal mark. 
According to Lamon, Lincoln once said to him, "... The way we 
skulked into this city, in the first place, has been a source of shame 
and regret to me, for it did look so cowardly." 53 Colonel McClure 
wrote: "I have several times heard Lincoln refer to this journey, 
and always with regret. Indeed, he seemed to regard it as one of 
the grave mistakes in his public career." 54 "Threats that he never 
should be inaugurated had been," admits James G. Blaine, "nu- 
merous and serious." Yet to his life's end, Blaine says, "he regretted 
that he had not, according to his own desire, gone through Balti- 
more in open day." . . , 55 

Thus was intensified in him the strain of fatalism that was his 
by nature. Later or sooner, if they wished to kill him, they would 
—and for their pains get Vice-President Hannibal Hamlin as presi- 
dent. If he could manage to slip away, he would ride alone into the 
country to the Soldiers' Home, even though a rifle shot startled 
his horse, which "unceremoniously separated me from my eight- 
dollar plug-hat." At Fort Stevens he would calmly make himself a 
target for sharpshooters until young Captain Holmes with blazing 
indiscretion called, "Get down, you fool!" He would, if he liked, 
saunter to a White House gate to look for a newsboy, or at night 
go unattended along the dim path to the old War Department. 
Death, a necessary end, would come when it would come; but 
never again should anybody have ground for saying he was afraid. 

53 North American Review, Sept. 1879; pp. 261-262. 

63 "Recollections"; p. 266. 

64 "Our Presidents"; p. 48. 

""Twenty Years of Congress"; vol. i, p. 280. 


Baltimore was placed securely under martial law. Burned 
bridges were rebuilt, railway service was resumed, mails went for- 
ward, troop trains met scowls but no active interference. Out- 
wardly there was change; but always, beneath the surface (as the 
provost marshal-general would have told you), smoldered disaf- 
fection. Between Baltimore and Richmond was constant inter- 
change of news. Traffic in contraband of war (some of it originat- 
ing in Philadelphia but having outlet through Baltimore) was un- 
ceasing by both water and land. From Baltimore went, in amazing 
quantities, medical and other supplies for the Confederate armies. 
To Baltimore large amounts of Virginia tobacco were run through 
the blockade. The Confederate raider Col. Harry Gilmor (who 
plundered in Carroll and Frederick Counties) and most of his 
command were Baltimoreans; and vessels clearing under sundry 
pretexts landed recruits on the Virginia shore. 

When Gen. Lew Wallace in March 1864 assumed command of 
the Middle Department, his predecessor, General Schenck, ap- 
prised him: 

Your trouble will have its origin in Baltimore. Baltimore viewed 
socially is peculiar. There is more culture to the square block there 
than there is in Boston; actual culture. The question of the war divided 
the old families, but I was never able to discover the dividing line. Did 
I put a heavy hand on one of the Secessionists, a delegation of influen- 
tial Unionists at once hurried to the President and begged the culprit 
off. The most unfortunate thing in connection with the Department 
and its management is that it is only a pleasant morning's jaunt by rail 
from Baltimore to Washington. . . . 

So near was Baltimore that, although he had passed through it 
and lived, its shadow still fell athwart Abraham Lincoln. Idle 
young Baltimoreans of Confederate sympathies, with convivial 
tastes and sometimes with empty pockets— ripe for frolic or for 
gaudy scheme— were often in the capital, where so much was to be 
heard and seen. Paroled Confederates found homes in Baltimore's 
rooming-houses. To and fro between Washington and Baltimore, 
or through Washington between Baltimore and Richmond, 
drifted Confederate runners, mail carriers, agents, and spies. From 
the second-floor windows of the Executive Mansion, Lincoln 


looked daily toward the heights across the Potomac. Beyond them 
was the enemy in the field. But on the Potomac's hither side, about 
his feet and at his back, were other enemies. He was a stranger in 
a strange land, 

Remembering the prairies and the corn. 


DRIVEN down the wide blankness of Pennsylvania Avenue, 
with its fringe of ailanthus trees in whitewashed wooden boxes, 
Lincoln was delivered at the unadorned six-storied pile of Wil- 
lard's ("Water and gas in each room"). When he had served a 
term as representative, back in Polk's administration, he had 
lodged in a boarding-house on the Hill. It was then that he break- 
fasted with Webster, opposed the Mexican War, introduced his 
bill for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. The 
city had been slowly growing since then but was little improved. 

Despite a most liberal provision of cuspidors, the marbles of 
the Capitol were freckled with tobacco juice. Cheek by jowl with 
the dingy home of the State Department stood the Presidential 
stables. The City Hall, architecturally pleasing, was known as "the 
Washington Slave-Pen"; for within sat three commissioners issuing 
orders to a United States marshal and a corps of deputies whose 
chief business was the catching of runaway slaves at $50 a head. 
While the physicist Henry, the hydrographer Maury, and the 
archivist Force lent to the town the distinction of their unselfish 
labors, spoilsmen wrangled like hawks over patronage. 

"Society" there was, to be sure— the society of Mrs. Clay- 
Clopton's nostalgic reminiscences, "A Belle of the Fifties." Her 
first husband was Senator Clement C. Clay of Alabama, and she 
always looked back regretfully to that proud era when a lady 
simply had to have a pier glass for the right adjustment of hoop- 
skirts. Her coterie, largely Southern in tone, agreed heartily that 
a week of Washington was better than a year of New York. During 
sessions of Congress a continual exchange of hospitalities pre- 

5 1 

1 iRRAffV 


vailed. Carriages steered their uncertain courses through hazard- 
ous streets to receptions, balls, and elaborate dinners whose com- 
monplaces were terrapin, reed birds, and canvasbacks. At its best 
this society had often an easy unaffectedness quite disarming; but 
the same society had approved the code duello, condoned gross 
drunkenness, and sanctioned brutality. No doubt incursions from 
Baltimore brought undesirables "with actual revolvers and un- 
questionable slung-shot." But side by side with its liveried reti- 
nues, its imported elegances, its superficial chivalry, life in Wash- 
ington City itself had an endemic strain of barbarism that, as one 
editor put it, would not have been out of place in the camp of 
Alaric or of Attila. 

To Mrs. Clay-Clopton's inner set belonged Representative 
Preston Brooks of South Carolina. On May 22nd, 1856, while 
Charles Sumner was working at his desk in the Senate chamber, 
Brooks had approached him unannounced and repeatedly struck 
him across head and shoulders with a heavy cane. Sumner, unable 
to defend himself and wrenching the desk loose from the floor in 
his efforts to rise, was so injured that he did not return to the 
Senate until i860. Laurence M. Keitt, another representative from 
South Carolina, rushed down the aisle and with curses warned 
onlookers to "let them alone." Spinal trouble delayed Sumner's 
recovery. Though terming this dastardly assault "a personal affair" 
—he had been provoked, he explained, by Sumner's "Crime 
against Kansas" speech— Brooks chose to make public vaunt of it 
before the House in what must be one of the worst apologias on 
record. "I went to work very deliberately," he declared with relish. 
Bob Toombs of Georgia, an approving witness, said of the blows: 
"They were hard licks and very effective." 

Henry Wilson, Sumner's colleague, unsparingly denounced 
Brooks, and Brooks sent Wilson a challenge. Wilson, saying that 
dueling was both illegal and uncivilized, refused to meet him. 
Brooks, having resigned from the House, was almost unanimously 
re-elected. It was credibly reported that, at Charleston, Louis Wig- 
fall of Texas "in the plenitude of his exaltation alluded to the 
assault on Senator Sumner as a type of the manner in which South- 
erners would deal with the Northerners generally." 

This was not Washington's first casualty of the kind. A few 

From the Oldroyd Collection, Lincoln Museum, Washington 



At the left he is shown in feminine attire; at the right, in plaid and Scotch 



months before, Albert C. Rust, Democratic representative from 
Arkansas and powerful six-footer, had twice attacked Horace 
Greeley on the street. He objected to something Greeley had said 
in the Tribune about a motion of Rust's in the House. In the 
first instance he rained blows with his fists upon the Pickwickian 
head of the unwary editor, whose hands happened at the moment 
to be thrust deeply into the pockets of his celebrated overcoat. In 
the second, near the National Hotel, the Arkansan aimed at Horace 
a violent stroke with a walking stick. Surprisingly, Greeley's up- 
raised arm was not shattered but the stick was broken. Rust was 
led away by friends. Greeley spent a day or two in bed. 1 
• Rowdyism in Washington could thus at least plead legislative 
precedent. The pro-slavery mood was sultry and unrestrained. At 
breakfast in the bare, uncarpeted dining-hall of Willard's, that 
morning of Lincoln's arrival, there was probably table talk about 
the attack on Representative Charles H. Van Wyck, which had be- 
come known just the day preceding. Lincoln breakfasted in pri- 
vate, but he must later have learned the facts. About midnight of 
February 21st, Van Wyck, who was from the Tenth District of 
New York and stanchly anti-slavery, was passing the north wing 
of the Capitol when three men set upon him. His left hand was 
gashed by a knife and he was knocked down, but he succeeded in 
getting free. His assailants were unknown. Through unfriendly 
New York, where eyes were cool and cheers were sparse; through 
Baltimore, where the mob's will was frankly hostile, Lincoln had 
come to his astonishing capital. Living, he was never to be out of 
it for long. 

For Inaugural Day a bright sun shone. A brisk March wind 
filled the air with Washington dust that lately had been Washing- 
ton mud. Past, for the time being, was the dread of some more or 
less organized undertaking, some coup de main, to seize the city. 
Seward thought the truth was that although Washington was not 
prepared for defense, neither was the South as yet prepared for 
concerted aggression or willing to take the risk. But there re- 
mained the possibility of assassination— of consequent panic and 
stampede and riot. 

1 During the war, Rust became a Confederate brigadier. 


As custom was, a platform had been built out from the Capi- 
tol's main portico. On this rough scaffolding Lincoln was to take 
the oath of office and deliver his eagerly awaited inaugural ad- 
dress. Word had come to Scott's headquarters during the night 
that in the midst of the exercises an attempt would be made to 
blow up the platform. By daylight, Colonel Stone had seen to it 
that an ample guard was stationed below, and from that side no 
access was possible. 

When Buchanan and Lincoln rode together up Pennsylvania 
Avenue, the carriage at times was almost hidden from the view of 
those on the sidewalks. In front of it marched a detachment of 
sappers and miners— regulars from West Point; on either side rode 
double files of District volunteer cavalry; District infantry fol- 
lowed. One trained observer believed that "owing to the dense- 
ness of the military enclosure" a shot could not have reached 
Lincoln. 2 From the point at which the carriage stopped, a tempo- 
rary wooden corridor led to the northern door of the Capitol. 
Armed men in civilian clothes were scattered amons; the crowd 
on the plaza and posted on roofs of adjacent buildings. Light 
artillery was placed where it could rake the streets. At a near-by 
corner Scott watched from a coupe— with his weight, the mounting 
of a horse was an effort. 

Lincoln looked around for a spot where he might safely deposit 
his brand-new tall hat, and Douglas thereupon took charge of it 
and held it. The address was given quietly, with few gestures; but, 
according to the Intelligencer, Lincoln's clear, distinct voice was 
readily audible to the thousands before him. Behind him, with 
folded arms, Wigfall of Texas leaned insolently in the entrance. 

"In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in 
mine/' concluded the speaker, "is the momentous issue of civil 
war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no con- 
flict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath 
registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while / shall 
have the most solemn one to 'preserve, protect, and defend it.' 

"I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must 
not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not 
break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, 

2 Gobright, "Recollections of Men and Things"; p. 287. 


stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living 
heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the 
chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, 
by the better angels of our nature." 

John Hay's friends, when they read those words of "haunting 
beauty," fancied that he, the budding poet, must have written 
them. At administering the oath, Chief Justice Taney, then within 
a week of his eighty-fourth birthday, was perceptibly moved by 
the grave tension of the scene. 

Nothing untoward marred the day. But that very morning Sec- 
retary Holt had received from Major Anderson extraordinary 
dispatches saying that Fort Sumter could not be held without at 
least 20,000 men to take the batteries South Carolina had built. 
Within six weeks, war would begin. From the neighborhood of 
the President's Park and from the "West End," from spacious 
town houses and their walled gardens, disunion society already 
had begun to flit. At the Inauguration Ball young Henry Adams, 
feeling youthfully superior after his Wanderjahre, saw the new 
President, the new head of Washington's official society— a tall 
man with a "ploughed" face and not wholly at ease in white 
gloves, the fastidious Henry thought— a man who did not dance 
and who seemed preoccupied. 

Preoccupied— Lincoln may well have been that. He knew he 
was surrounded by civilians who sympathized with disunion, by 
officers he could not trust. He knew that under Howell Cobb's 
direction the national credit had been sadly impaired; that on 
one side lay the slave state of Virginia, on the other the slave 
states of Delaware and Maryland; that the old order was crum- 
bling before his eyes. Senator Benjamin of Louisiana had shown 
his respect for the chief magistracy by tastefully describing Bu- 
chanan as "a senile executive under the sinister influence of 
insane counsels." But compared with the volcanic stream of 
malignity that was beginning to be outpoured upon Buchanan's 
successor, this was as Hyperion to a satyr. 

From the very start, Lincoln was threatened by enemies, cau- 
tioned by friends. His mail, said his secretaries, "was infested with 
brutal and vulgar menace, mostly anonymous," and heavy with the 
admonitions of excited well-wishers. It was rumored in March 


that one Ben McCullough, secessionist desperado, had collected 
five hundred adventurers at Richmond for some enterprise of 
pith and moment— it might be to abduct the President and his 
entire Cabinet. 

Stanton wrote from Washington to Buchanan in retirement at 

The yard in front of the War Office is crowded with the District 
Militia, who are being mustered into service. The feeling of loyalty to 
the Government has greatly diminished in the city. Many persons who 
would have supported the Government under your administration re- 
fuse to be enrolled. Many who were enrolled have withdrawn, and 
refuse to take the oath. [April nth] 

A common impression, said Stanton, was that inside of thirty days 
Jefferson Davis would be in the city. 3 

On April 12th Fort Sumter was fired on; on the 14th its com- 
mander marched out with the honors of war; on the 15th Lincoln 
issued a call for 75,000 volunteers. What had been spoken in dark- 
ness was forthwith heard in the light; for Leroy P. Walker, Con- 
federate Secretary of War, gave notice to the universe that by May 
Day the flag of the Confederacy would float above the Capitol. 

The first entry in John Hay's Washington diary— that for April 
18th— captures for us the atmosphere of foreboding that rested on 
the city. That night the novelist Mrs. Ann S. Stephens brought to 
the Executive Mansion actress Jean M. Davenport, recently made 
Mrs. Col. Frederick W. Lander. The ladies wished to see the Presi- 
dent on a matter connected with his personal safety; but as the 
President had gone to bed, Hay took their message— delighted, he 
says, at this chance interview with one whom he had admired as 
Julia, Medea, and Mona Lisa. It appeared that a young Virginian 
of Mrs. Lander's acquaintance had been in the city to buy a sad- 
dle; and, meeting her, had indiscreetly revealed that within forty- 
eight hours he and a half-dozen other bloods— among them a dare- 
devil from Richmond named Ficklin— would perform a deed with 
which the world would resound. From this, and from other things 
he let fall, Mrs. Lander had deduced that the intent was to kill or 
abduct Lincoln. 

"They went away," ended Hay, "and I went to the bedside of 

3 G. T. Curtis, "Life of James Buchanan"; vol. ii, pp. 540, 542. 


the Chief couche. I told him the yarn. He quietly grinned/' Mrs. 
Lincoln's fears were allayed by "some very dexterous lying." 

For several days after the Baltimore riot of April 19th, and 
before communications were reopened, a minor panic existed. If 
invaders from Maryland and Virginia should now join forces, 
what would save the city? Many families packed up their house- 
hold goods. Lincoln's elemental patience was quite misunder- 
stood. It was said that he was shallow, apathetic, incompetent; 
that he ought to be superseded. Yet, looking for the ships that 
were to bring expected troops, he scanned the river from his office 
window and— supposing himself to be alone— exclaimed, "Why 
don't they come? Why don't they come?" Brought by water to 
Annapolis from Philadelphia or Perryville, regiments soon 
marched in, and the situation was relieved. 

One night every member of the family was taken sick. Hurry 
calls were sent out for doctors, and for a time there were head- 
shakings and dark whispers of "Poison!"— as there had been in the 
case of Harrison in 1841 and of Taylor in 1850. But eventually 
the diagnosis was overindulgence in Potomac shad, a dish to 
which inlanders had not acquired full immunity. 4 If not one 
alarum, it was another. A gentleman would bring tidings that on 
the hills of Arlington had been planted a mortar battery com- 
manding the town; or suspicious-looking craft would be sighted 
on mischievous errands. Many Southerners gave out that Lincoln, 
the temperance advocate, was consoling himself amid his miseries 
by drinking strong liquor. 

Of the earlier written threats and warnings, most were on the 
face of them deemed unworthy of attention. If inquiry seemed to 
be indicated, it was carefully made by Nicolay and the War De- 
partment. But apparently nothing tangible was ever turned up— 
nothing sufficiently definite to afford ground for action. Again 
and again intelligence of a most specific character led nowhere 
save to confusion. "During my time, there were no substantial 
proofs of plots against the person of Lincoln," is the statement of 
Maj. William E. Doster, provost marshal of the military district 

4 Article by Mrs. E. T. G. Brown in Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 
Oct. 1926-Jan. 1927 (vol. xix, nos. 3-4). 


of Washington from March 1862 to March 1863, while Gen. 
James S. Wadsworth was military governor. Doster once received 
from Ohio a letter claiming that the man who was to have killed 
Lincoln in Baltimore was then living in that state, and offering on 
certain terms to reveal his identity. After a conference with "Major 
Allen, head of my detective bureau," Doster returned the letter 
and nothing more was heard. Like many other army officers, Dos- 
ter seems to have been ignorant of the fact that Major Allen and 
Allan Pinkerton were one and the same person. 5 

Major Doster has told us that while he was provost marshal of 
the Washington military district he was expected to preserve order 
in Washington City and Georgetown; receive and hold for ex- 
change all prisoners of war and state; control passes to all persons 
or goods leaving or entering; supervise invoices; take care of all 
fugitive Negroes; prevent blockade-running; regulate all places 
of amusement and all sales of liquor; guard the person of the 
President (when in public); and report in person daily to Secre- 
tary Stanton or Assistant Secretary Watson. This was a consider- 
able program for one man. Even with a mixed brigade at his 
disposal, it took a bit of doing; and after a year Doster gladly got 
leave to rejoin his regiment in the field. 

"Soon after I was nominated at Chicago," said Lincoln to the 
artist Frank Carpenter in March 1864, "I began to receive letters 
threatening my life. The first one or two made me a little uncom- 
fortable, but I came at length to look for a regular instalment of 
this kind of correspondence in every week's mail, and up to in- 
auguration day I was in constant receipt of such letters. It is no 
uncommon thing to receive them now; but they have ceased to 
give me any apprehension." 

Carpenter wondered at this. "Oh," answered Lincoln, with his 
peculiar inflection, "there is nothing like getting used to things!" 

Maj. Gen. Edward D. Townsend, whose duties as assistant 
adjutant-general brought him frequently into contact with Lin- 
coln, attested that "a large number of communications were re- 
ceived from several Northern States, Canada, Kentucky, and other 
parts of the South, and from Europe, especially from Germany, 

5 "Lincoln and Episodes of the Civil War"; p. 29. 

6 "Six Months in the White House"; pp. 62-63. 


some of them anonymous, others signed with a name. All con- 
curred in the declaration that a plot existed to assassinate Presi- 
dent Lincoln and General Scott." Without Scott's knowledge, 
sentries were posted around his house at night. 7 

"On one occasion," wrote Col. L. C. Baker, ubiquitous head of 
the National Detective Bureau, "I carried to Mr. Lincoln two 
anonymous communications, in which he was threatened with 
assassination. In a laughing, joking manner, he remarked, 'Well, 
Baker, what do they want to kill me for? If they kill me, they will 
run the risk of getting a worse man.' " This, with variations, was 
his pet response. He had been reluctant to believe that his life 
might be endangered in Baltimore. "He had himself," wrote his 
secretaries, "so sane a mind, and a heart so kindly even to his ene- 
mies, that it was hard for him to believe in a political hatred so 
deadly as to lead to murder." 8 

During the first half of 1862, John Bigelow, United States 
consul-general at Paris, notified Secretary Seward that even at that 
distance reports had reached him of plots then maturing "against 
the lives of leading loyal statesmen in different cities of our re- 
public." Seward, under date of July 15th, 1862, replied in part 

There is no doubt that from a period anterior to the breaking out 
of the insurrection, plots and conspiracies for purposes of assassination 
have been frequently formed and organized. And it is not unlikely that 
such an one as has been reported to you is now in agitation among the 
insurgents. If it be so, it need furnish no grounds for anxiety. Assassina- 
tion is not an American practice or habit, and one so vicious and so 
desperate cannot be engrafted into our political system. 

This conviction of mine has steadily gained strength since the Civil 
War began. Every day's experience confirms it. The President, during 
the heated season, occupies a country house near the Soldiers' Home, 
two or three miles from the city. He goes to and fro from that place on 
horseback, night and morning, unguarded. I go there unattended at 
all hours, by daylight and moonlight, by starlight and without any 
light." . . , 9 

This was a rather different Seward from the one who had rushed 

'"Anecdotes of the Civil War in the United States"; p. 23. 

8 "History of the United States Secret Service"; p. 475. Nicolay and Hay; vol. x, 
pp. 286-287. 

9 Bigelow, "Retrospections of an Active Life"; vol. ii, pp. 547-548. 


that urgent warning to Lincoln at Philadelphia. With the inaugu- 
ration triumphantly over, he had by degrees been lulled into a 
fancied security. Time would lend a bitter import to these words 
—and to those other words of his, once spoken to John Hay: "You 
learn something of men and things, but never until too late to 
use it." 

It has been said that in no other modern city, save Paris dur- 
ing the Terror, has so strange a multitude been gathered as that 
which filled Washington in those harried years of the Civil War. 
By this multitude Lincoln hourly was surrounded. To it he was 
bent upon making himself approachable. He felt that he was at- 
torney for the people; that he belonged to them— all of them. 
With a weary smile he said to Henry Wilson, "They don't want 
much; they get but little, and I must see them." 

In the beginning, as efforts were made toward settling down to 
the routine of war, mounted guards were stationed at the carriage 
gates of the President's House, and infantry guards at the foot 
gates. There was guard-mounting in military style, and William 
O. Stoddard of the secretarial force considered the residence "a 
pretty carefully guarded headquarters." But Lincoln was bothered 
by this arrangement and got rid of it. It would never do, he said, 
for a President to have sentries with drawn sabers at his door— as 
if he were assuming to be an emperor. 

At the main entrance a doorkeeper was on duty. Well known 
to Washington in this capacity was the courteous and witty Ed- 
ward McManus, who had been a fixture since President Taylor's 
day. On the second floor was an usher— the Prussian Louis Burg- 
dorf, or some other; for executive business was transacted in the 
east wing of that floor. In the southeast corner was the secretaries' 
office; next along the corridor, toward the west, was the office of 
the President, and beyond that the reception room. This plan— if 
plan it could be called— was strategically unsound, for the secre- 
taries were not so placed that they could interpose themselves 
between the President and his visitors. But perhaps it made small 
difference, for, as Hay wrote, although those immediately about 
Lincoln "strove ... to erect barriers to defend him against con- 
stant interruption, ... he was always the first to break them down." 


The result was that, in dealing with callers, only the most primi- 
tive system obtained. Lunatics succeeded in getting to the doors 
of the executive offices and occasionally into Lincoln's very pres- 
ence. He did not appear to mind greatly. He liked to talk with 
people; and, says Thayer, "he could usually get something, if it 
were only a quaint phrase, even from cranks." Yet all the while 
he was conscious that he sometimes might be running a risk. 

In the first months, Hay seems to have taken as one of his 
special concerns the inspection of the Executive Mansion and the 
safekeeping of the President while in it. The house became for a 
time a barracks, with Governor Jim Lane's "Frontier Guards" 
bunking in the East Room. Hay has left us in his diary a little 
genre-piece of himself patrolling the house at midnight, while 
Major Hunter slept placidly on the floor and the watch— young, 
careless, and "too good to be food for gunpowder"— loafed by the 
furnace in the basement. A member of General Halleck's staff, 
Col. Charles Halpine (better known by his pen name Miles 
O'Reilly) was struck by Lincoln's accessibility. "I have many times 
entered the mansion," wrote Halpine, "and walked up to the 
rooms of the two private secretaries, as late as nine or ten o'clock 
at night, without seeing or being challenged by a single soul. 
There were, indeed, two attendants— one for the outer door, and 
the other for the door of the official chambers; but these— think- 
ing, I suppose, that none would call after office hours save persons 
who were personally acquainted, or had the right of official entry 
—were, not infrequently, somewhat remiss in their duties." 

The Colonel essayed to reason with Lincoln, "who heard me 
through with a smile, his hands locked across his knees, his body 
rocking back and forth— the common indication that he was 

"Now as to political assassination," he said, "do you think the Rich- 
mond people would like to have Hannibal Hamlin here any better 
than myself? In that one alternative, I have an insurance on my life 
worth half the prairie land of Illinois. And beside," — this more gravely, 
— "if there were such a plot, and they wanted to get at me, no vigilance 
could keep them out. We are so mixed up in our affairs, that — no mat- 
ter what the system established — a conspiracy to assassinate, if such 
there were, could easily obtain a pass to see me for any one or more of 
its instruments. 


"To betray fear of this, by placing guards or so forth, would only be 
to put the idea into their heads, and perhaps lead to the very result 
it was intended to prevent. As to the crazy folks, Major, why I must 
only take my chances, — the worst crazy people at present, I fear, being 
some of my own too zealous adherents. That there may be such dangers 
as you and many others have suggested to me, is quite possible; but I 
guess it wouldn't improve things any to publish that we were afraid of 
them in advance." 10 

There was a bell rope for calling the secretaries, but often the 
President would go to them instead. At luncheon time he had 
"literally to run the gantlet" through the crowds as he made his 
way to the private rooms of the family in the west wing. When no 
engagement interfered, he usually spent the evening in his office. 
At the witching hour he would roam the halls— now and then in 
his nightshirt, short for his long shanks. 

General Wadsworth, military governor and Major Doster's of- 
ficial superior, detailed a body of cavalry to accompany Lincoln 
to and from the Soldiers' Home 11 at the north of the city. On the 
grounds of the Home, in a beautiful grove, a brick dwelling had 
been set apart as the President's summer quarters. It was higher 
and cooler there than in town, and he could get a comfortable 
night's rest. He would travel either on horseback or in his every- 
day carriage, which was hardly better than the average Washing- 
ton hack. By eight in the morning he would be back at his desk. 
The escort— dubbed by "secesh" ladies the "Janissaries"— had been 
detailed against his wish and he protested about it to General 
Halleck, then commander-in-chief. Spurs and sabers, he com- 
plained, made so much noise that Mrs. Lincoln and he, when 
they rode together, couldn't hear themselves talk. He said many 
of the men appeared to be raw recruits; and he was more afraid 
of the accidental discharge of their revolvers or carbines than he 
was of any deliberate attempt to abduct or kill him. The story was 
that he delighted in having the coachman, Francis Burke, sud- 
denly put the carriage horses to the top of their speed and leave 
the "Janissaries" in the rear. 

In the summer of 1863 this detachment was replaced by the 

10 Carpenter, "Six Months in the White House"; pp. 66-67. Vice-President Hamlin 
was a strong anti-slavery man. 

11 This was for veterans of the regular army. 


Union Light Guard, an independent company organized, under 
permit of the War Department, by Governor Tod of Ohio. This 
picked troop of one hundred Ohioans— most of whom had seen 
service, some as commissioned officers— was mounted entirely on 
fine black horses. Its duties were to guard the carriage gates of 
the Executive Mansion and to act as escort to the President when- 
ever he went out driving or on horseback. Two mounted guards, 
relieved at intervals, were stationed at each of the gateways. They 
were under the immediate command of a noncommissioned offi- 
cer who stood on post by the front door while his mount was tied 
at the portico. Camped on the south lawn was an infantry company 
of Pennsylvania "bucktails," so named from the bucktails they 
wore in their hats. These men guarded the ends and southern 
front of the building. 

Out at the Soldiers' Home the Union Light Guard had tents in 
the grove. It was a pleasant life, and the duties were easy; but in 
the summer of 1864 some of the men began to think the job irk- 
some. So once when the President strolled down to the camp of an 
evening, as he often did after dinner, one of them made bold to 
explain to him that they felt there was greater need for them at 
the front. The President listened and then said with a twinkle: 

"Well, my boy, that reminds me of an old farmer friend of mine 
in Illinois, who used to say he never could understand why the 
Lord put the curl in a pig's tail. It did not seem to him to be 
either useful or ornamental, but he guessed the Lord knew what 
he was doing when he put it there. I do not myself see the neces- 
sity of having soldiers traipsing around after me wherever I go, 
but Stanton, who knows a great deal more about such things than 
I do, seems to think it necessary, and he may be right. And if it is 
necessary to have soldiers here, it might as well be you as someone 
else. If you were sent to the front, someone would have to come 
from the front to take your place." 

Then he added: "It is a soldier's duty to obey orders without 
question, and in doing that you can serve your country as faith- 
fully here as at the front. And I reckon"— this with a smile— "it is 
not quite as dangerous here as it is there." He waved his hand and 
walked away. The men laughed, and so the matter ended. 12 

13 North Dakota Historical Quarterly, Jan. 1927; p. 13. 


In late afternoon the President, frequently accompanied by 
Mrs. Lincoln, was likely to take an hour's drive. He had been per- 
suaded that this was a needed airing for him after his day's work. 
If he wished to go out on horseback, either to the Soldiers' Home 
or elsewhere, he had no mount of his own but would send to the 
Light Guard's headquarters a request for a saddle horse. The one 
commonly selected, known to the troopers as Abe, was a large ani- 
mal, high-headed and long-legged. Stirrup leathers, even when let 
out to the last hole, were always too short for Lincoln. On his 
"high horse" (as the men were used to saying), he made a figure 
proper enough when sitting at rest; but in motion his trousers 
worked upward for lack of straps, his arms flapped, his feet turned 
outward. Nevertheless, many a competent judge in that equestrian 
town thought that in the management of his steed the President 
could have held his own with the best riders. 

Lincoln was a pretty difficult man to regulate. After reaching 
the Soldiers' Home at night he would occasionally go back to the 
city without escort along the lonely road— uneasy for news or sum- 
moned, perhaps, as he was to a council after Chattanooga, when 
Hay hurried out through the September moonlight to fetch him. 
Frank Carpenter and journalist Noah Brooks are two who tell of 
long walks with him at late hours through dark Washington 
streets, with no attendant or other companion whatever. 

Gen. Schuyler Hamilton said that Lincoln during his first 
months in office liked to set out as early as four o'clock for a morn- 
ing stroll. In slouched hat, soiled linen duster, and trousers "of 
frontier cut," he would visit horse corrals, hospitals, and camps, 
and would talk with the rank and file as if he, too, thought of 
enlisting. Scott, Hamilton said, induced Lincoln to forego the 
duster by misquoting Shakespeare to the effect that "there is a 
certain dignity should hedge about a king." 18 

It was told— this was at a later date— that Major Biddle, in 
charge of the provost marshal's mounted patrol, was riding along 
Pennsylvania Avenue when he encountered three horsemen— two 
officers with a civilian between them. As his duty was, he asked 
for their passes, but the three rode along, taking no notice of him. 

"New York Tribune, June 20, 1889; p. 5. 


"Show your passes or I'll arrest you," shouted Biddle. 

"It's all right," said the civilian quietly. "These officers are 
going with me across the river." 

"And who the deuce may you be?" demanded the Major. 

"Oh/' replied the civilian, "I'm Mr. Lincoln." 

Biddle in telling the story would explain that he had taken the 
President for a Maryland farmer. But in Washington were eyes 
shrewder than the Major's and hearts filled with guile. 

Lincoln's obliviousness to personal considerations is further 
shown by the manner in which he rushed to the burning stables 
on the night of February 10th, 1864. It was between ten and 
eleven o'clock when he came out of the Executive Mansion's 
front door and said to Sergeant Stimmel, who was on duty there, 
"Where's the fire? What's burning?" Stimmel said, "It seems to be 
around in the vicinity of the stables." By that time the firemen had 
arrived. Lincoln started on a dog trot with Stimmel after him, 
trying to keep up. A miscellaneous crowd had assembled. Lincoln 
asked whether the horses had been taken out; and learning that 
they had not, he pushed his way through and began to open one 
of the large doors. The whole interior of the brick building was 
in flames, however, and none of the animals was saved. The cap- 
tain of the Light Guard then appeared on the scene, and with him 
a gentleman unknown to Stimmel. 

"Mr. President," said the gentleman, "this is no place for you" 
—and, slipping his arm through Lincoln's, walked with him back 
to the house. Lincoln had been intent on saving the ponies that 
had meant so much to Willie and Tad. Of personal danger he had 
been completely forgetful. 14 

Since the Executive Mansion had no telegraphic connections, 
the President's telegrams were handled by the War Department. 
In Secretary Stanton's office and the cipher room of the military 
telegraph Lincoln spent more time than in any other one spot out- 
side his own demesne. There he kept closely in touch with events 
at the front and sent out his own messages; in periods of crisis he 
was known to remain all night. Thrice daily— morning, afternoon, 
and evening— occasionally oftener, he would go across to the old 

14 North Dakota Historical Quarterly, Jan. 1927; pp. 15-16. 


War Department building. Somewhere between eleven and 
twelve at night was a time he favored. A brick walk, with a low 
wall along its southern border, led past a conservatory where later 
the executive office-building was located; and after dark only a 
few uncertain gas-lights broke the thick shadows of overhanging 

Even in the worst of weather the President, wearing his gray 
shawl and perhaps carrying a disreputable umbrella, would go 
alone along this footpath. But never was he allowed to return 
alone. Usually he was escorted back by a file of four soldiers and 
a noncommissioned officer. 15 This duty was many times performed 
by Sergt. Henry W. Knight, in charge of the detail of the Veteran 
Reserve Corps assigned as guard at the War Department. Knight 
recalled how, about one o'clock of a dismally rainy morning, 
Lincoln said to the escort, "Don't come out in this storm with me, 
boys. I have my umbrella, and can get home safely without you." 

"But, Mr. President," objected Knight, "we have positive or- 
ders from Mr. Stanton not to allow you to return alone. You 
know we dare not disobey his orders." 

"No, I suppose not," conceded Lincoln. "If Stanton should 
learn that you had let me return alone, he would have you court- 
martialed and shot inside of twenty-four hours." 16 

Lincoln enjoyed the drama, gaining refreshment from Shake- 
speare or a good comedy of the day. His knowledge of the Shake- 
spearean plays matched his knowledge of the Bible. He liked to 
read aloud or recite passages from them to sympathetic listeners, 
and was partial to Richard's speech in the third act of the much- 
neglected "Richard II"— 

For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground, 
And tell sad stories of the death of kings: . . . 
All murder'd. 

"Richard II," "Hamlet," and "Macbeth" were among his prefer- 
ences, and he was delighted with Falstaff as interpreted by James 

16 It would seem that now and then he was accompanied by only the vigorous 
Maj. T. T. Eckert, head of the telegraph office, or some other member of the 
telegraph staff. 

""Abraham Lincoln: Tributes from His Associates"; pp. 189-190. 


H. Hackett. To Hackett, who was a personal friend and some- 
times spent an evening with him, he wrote: 

For one of my age I have seen very little of the drama. The first 
presentation of Falstaff I ever saw was yours, here last winter or spring. 
Perhaps the best compliment I can pay is to say as I truly can, I am 
very anxious to see it again. ... I think nothing equals "Macbeth." It 
is wonderful. . . . [August 17th, 1863] 

His study of the Shakespeare text led him occasionally to criticize 
Hackett's renderings. The cultured James E. Murdoch, another 
actor friend, visited Lincoln to give Shakespearean readings at 
the President's request; and when John E. McDonough called, 
Lincoln discussed "Henry IV" with him. 

David H. Bates, cipher operator and manager of the War De- 
partment's telegraph office, speaks of how Lincoln read aloud to 
those in the office from well-worn pocket editions of "Macbeth" 
and "The Merry Wives of Windsor." "On one occasion," Bates 
says, "I was his only auditor, and he recited several passages to me 
with as much interest apparently as if there had been a full 

For some time Lincoln was evidently accustomed to visit thea- 
ters in Washington without a guard. His only attendant, if he 
had one at all, would be Charles Forbes, the carriage footman, who 
was unarmed. Usually, though not invariably, he had some one 
with him— Mrs. Lincoln or Tad or both of them; his secretaries 
or other guests, both men and women. Hay's diary has such en- 
tries as: 

The President and Mrs. Lincoln went to see "Fanchon." [October 
30th, 1863] 

. . . The President took Swett, Nicolay & me to Ford's with him to 
see Falstaff in Henry IV. . . . Hackett was most admirable. [December 
19th, 1863] 

Leonard Grover, proprietor of Grover's (National) Theatre, made 
note of the presence one evening of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln with 
Schuyler Colfax, Speaker of the House, "without guard or special 
attendance." 17 He said that he personally met the party at the curb 
and conducted it to a box. Lincoln commonly gave notice a day 

17 Century Magazine, April 1909; p. 946. 


ahead and a box would be reserved for him. His presence was 
regarded by the managers as a good advertisement and they would 
gladly have supplied him with complimentary tickets. He declined 
their offers, however, and the messenger or secretary who called 
for the tickets invariably was instructed to pay. 

Once when W. O. Stoddard and the President went to see 
Hackett, Stoddard recorded this impression: 

There was a storm of applause when he came in, and now it seems as 
securely safe a corner of the great Washington City fort as any which 
could be selected. He is incomparably better guarded here, to any criti- 
cal human eye, than if he were walking through the White House 
grounds, or to and from the house of one of the secretaries, alone, or 
with only an unarmed attendant. 

In this feeling Stoddard was perhaps confirmed by an incident on 
another occasion, when he and the President were attending a 
concert at Ford's. From the middle aisle of the orchestra seats rose 
a "harsh, croaking voice," audible all over the house: "He hasn't 
any business here! That's all he cares for his poor soldiers!" The 
next instant, "poor soldiers" grabbed this individual, hustled him 
to the door, and tossed him out. 

It must be remembered that boxes in the theaters of that time 
were quite different from the loges of later playhouses. The stage 
projected beyond the proscenium arch in what was termed an 
apron. Boxes were over the stage, and were separated from the 
auditorium proper not by mere portieres but by doors that could 
be locked. They were therefore more removed and private than 
is the case today. Second-tier boxes were counted more desirable 
than the lower. 

It was finally thought best to have a special guard for the Presi- 
dent, and William B. Webb, chief of the Metropolitan Police, 
detailed four police officers for duty at the Executive Mansion. 
These men wore civilian clothing, carried their revolvers con- 
cealed, and walked with— not behind— the President. One of them 
was supposed to attend him on his walks to the War Department 
or elsewhere; to stand guard at night outside the private rooms of 
the Lincolns; and when Lincoln went to the theater, to protect 
him from the time he left the carriage until he re-entered it. It 
is doubtless true that the morale of the Metropolitan Police was 


none too high and that individual officers were of questionable 
loyalty. Yet three of the officers assigned to this special duty- 
William H. Crook, Alphonso Donn, and Thomas Pendel— would 
seem to have ranked well for intelligence, fidelity, and general 
character. Donn and Pendel were detailed on November 3rd, 
1864; Crook was appointed on January 4th, 1865. 

Among those about Lincoln, at least two men became con- 
vinced that his theatergoing should be discouraged. One was 
Secretary Stanton; the other, Marshal Lamon. So emphatic grew 
Lamon that on December 10th, 1864, at half-past one in the morn- 
ing, he wrote to the President. His letter shows that even after 
plain-clothes officers had been detailed, Lincoln did not always 
make use of them. 

I regret that you do not appreciate what I have repeatedly said to 
you in regard to the proper police arrangements connected with your 
household and your own personal safety. You are in danger. I have 
nothing to ask, and I flatter myself that you will at least believe that I 
am honest. If, however, you have been impressed differently, do me and 
the country the justice to dispose at once of all suspected officers, and 
accept my resignation of the marshalship, which is hereby tendered. 
I will give you further reasons which have impelled me to this 
course. To-night, as you have done on several previous occasions, you 
went unattended to the theater. When I say unattended, I mean that 
you went alone with Charles Sumner and a foreign minister, neither of 
whom could defend himself against an assault from any able-bodied 
woman in this city. And you know, or ought to know, that your life is 
sought after, and will be taken unless you and your friends are cau- 
tious; for you have many enemies within our lines. . . , 18 

During the war all places of amusement in Washington were 
packed. The legitimate theaters did a land-office business. Audi- 
toriums were large then— either Grover's or Ford's would accom- 
modate 2,500. Prices were moderate— a quarter for the family cir- 
cle, fifty cents for the dress circle, seventy-five cents for the orches- 
tra. This meant at least three hours of entertainment. Guest stars 
included the best talent of the day, and the stock companies were 
excellent. The promiscuous audiences were cross sections of the 
motley swarm that was Washington. Desperate men were often 
there— men imbruted by war, ready to kill; and weapons were 

18 "Recollections of Abraham Lincoln"; pp. 274-275. 


common wear. Of all this, no doubt, Stanton and Lamon had 
thought, and of the fact that Lincoln must walk from the curb to 
a second-tier box and back again. 

Once, on the edge of evening, the President could not be found 
and Lamon was notified. Posthaste he set out for the Soldiers' 
Home, and near its gateway he encountered a carriage followed 
by a man on horseback. "Halt!" commanded the Marshal, and 
they halted. Stanton was in the carriage; the man on horseback 
was an orderly. 

"Where is Mr. Lincoln?" the Secretary broke out. "I've looked 
for him everywhere. I have been to the Soldiers' Home and he 
isn't there. I'm exceedingly uneasy about him." The Stanton who 
had sneered at Lincoln for "creeping" into Washington was now 
himself alarmed and showed it in voice and manner. 

Lamon turned his horse about and rode for the Executive 
Mansion. There he found Lincoln walking across the grounds 
toward the War Department. Where the President had been does 
not appear from Lamon's story, but he seems to have been un- 
conscious of the flutter he had caused. That night and for three or 
four nights afterward (according to Lamon) he slept at Lamon's 
house, Mrs. Lincoln being in New York at the time. He must 
have done so to please Lamon. 19 "Lamon," he told John P. Usher, 
Secretary of the Interior, "is a monomaniac on the subject of my 
safety. . . . What does any one want to assassinate me for?" 

Of course he was, as Nicolay and Hay put it, "too intelligent 
not to know he was in some danger." An incident given by 
Thomas Pendel, one of the special guards, is directly in point. 
The stairs leading to Stanton's private office in the War Depart- 
ment were divided into two flights by a broad landing. One day 
when Lincoln and Pendel on their way down had got as far as this 
landing, they met a man coming up— a thickset man in gray 
clothes, who narrowly regarded Lincoln. Pendel noticed that Lin- 
coln in turn looked steadily at the man, as if memorizing his 
features. After they had left the building, the President said to 

"Last night I received a letter from New York stating that 
there would be a man here who would attempt to take my life. 

19 "Recollections"; pp. 270-271. 


In that letter was a description of the man who was said to be 
anxious to kill me. His size and the kind of clothes he would wear 
when he would make the attempt were carefully described. The 
man we just passed agreed exactly with the description given me 
in that letter." Who was the stranger in gray? From the upper 
floor he turns a last glance upon Lincoln and vanishes beyond our 
ken. Lincoln speaks casually— but whatever else the man in gray 
may have been, he was another reminder of the arrow by day and 
the terror by night. 

Now, according to the Great American Myth, no sort of thought 
was ever really taken for the safeguarding of Lincoln. There was 
just a shiftless neglect of any decent precaution. Or, more dread- 
ful still, there were those near to him, trusted and high in power, 
who purposely saw to it that there should be no decent precaution, 
because their traitorous wish was to be rid of him. 

From what we have seen it must, as a matter of fact, be clear 
that plenty of thought was taken and a great deal done, though at 
first, because of inexperience, the management was rather loose. 
As the war progressed, more attention and care were devoted to 
the matter. It is plain to us now that too many different agencies 
were employed, responsibility was too divided, centralized au- 
thority was lacking. There were, it seems to us, singular over- 
sights. For example, it is not disclosed that he was especially 
guarded at public receptions, and he was allowed to speak to 
crowds at night from upper windows of the Executive Mansion. 
In both cases he was jeopardized, though apparently nobody 
thought so then. 

We have today the Secret Service bureau of the Treasury De- 
partment, into whose sole charge are intrusted the persons of 
President and President-elect. This system, the result of experi- 
ence, is obviously an improvement. Yet guards were close at hand 
when William McKinley was shot, and also when Franklin Roose- 
velt narrowly escaped the bullet intended for him. In spite of the 
comprehensive machinery of European police, the nineteenth 
century was marked on the Continent as a century of political 
assassinations. King Alexander of Yugo-Slavia, though presumedly 
well-guarded, was shot in 1934. 


Lincoln was not only fatalistic and indifferent to his own safety 
but also by choice a man of simple ways, on principle disliking 
airs of official importance, just as he disliked swallow-tailed coats. 
He was continually kicking over the traces of official harness. 
Most of those who served him came naturally enough to humor 
his predilections— as they humored his dented "stovepipe" hat, 
with its nap all rubbed askew. He had, too, a sensitive regard for 
others; for their difficulties, their labors, their weariness. "I went 
with him to the Soldiers' Home," wrote John Hay, "and he read 
Shakespeare to me, the end of 'Henry V and the beginning of 
'Richard III,' till my heavy eyelids caught his considerate notice, 
and he sent me to bed." Some there were, too small to value it, 
who would seek to take advantage of this humanity in him; but 
they were likely to find he was not a man to be imposed upon. 

When he sat for his portrait by Healy in the winter of 1864, 
Lincoln had many talks with the artist. Now and then he revealed 
some opinion or trait. "He confided that the protection insisted 
upon by his guards irked him. Sometimes, he said, he managed to 
elude them, but felt so repentant when he realized their anxiety 
that he promised them each time to be more careful." 20 

One night Robert Lincoln strode into the secretaries' room and 
announced: "I have just had a great row with the President of the 
United States!" It seemed that Stanton, in an unwonted mood of 
fun, had commissioned Tad lieutenant; whereupon what did Tad 
do but dismiss the regular guard, order a consignment of rifles, 
line up the gardeners and other servants, and put them on sentry 
duty! When Robert found this out, he took his objections to the 
President, but the President did not see fit to punish Tad as Rob- 
ert recommended. ". . . He evidently looks upon it as a good joke," 
grumbled Robert, "and won't do anything about it!" 21 

As soon as Tad had gone to bed, the impromptu guard was 
without more ado discharged. It may have been, therefore, that 
for at least one night (though not through any deep-laid plot) the 
Executive Mansion lacked suitable protection; but that would not 
disquiet the President. Assassination was to him a well-worn 

20 Marie de Mare in the magazine section of the New York Times, May 9, 1937; 
p. 10. 
31 Carpenter, "Six Months in the White House"; p. 300. 


theme. He might ridicule his military behavior in the Black Hawk 
campaign, or profess that he would make a poor soldier. But the 
trip from Harrisburg, with the wretched distortion of it in the 
public mind, had ingrained one thing deeply in him. A very dif- 
ferent ruler of men— Cardenas of Mexico, a violent land— thus 
phrased it for himself: It is important that the people know I 
come among them without fear. 

As to the suggestion that any person or group of persons hold- 
ing distinguished office in Washington sought treacherously to 
bring Lincoln to his end— this has nothing to support it but la- 
bored innuendo, at variance with the facts. Wendell Phillips once 
in Faneuil Hall rebuked "the recreant American— the slanderer 
of the dead." It was Attorney-General Austin of Massachusetts 
against whom he thundered, but Austin was by no means the last 
of the breed. 

Lincoln's Washington had plenty of picturesque characters be- 
sides Lincoln himself. "Thad" Stevens was one. Another was 
Walt Whitman, with whom Lincoln exchanged "very cordial" 
bows and whose ruddy cheeks, with their encirclement of silver 
hair, actually got him arrested by an officer who believed them a 
disguise. Still another was the Polish Adam Gurowski. Generally 
styled Count Gurowski, he was an expert linguist, had written 
books in German and French, and was employed in the State De- 
partment as a translator from 1861 to 1863. There he fell out with 
Seward, who discharged him. He was a rabid critic of Lincoln, and 
his "Diary," of which the first volume was issued in 1862, con- 
tained—interlarded with canny observations on the progress of 
the war— insulting references to the President as well as to many 
others in government or army. Hay, who called him an "old nui- 
sance," has a story at second hand of Gurowski's drawing a revol- 
ver in furious rage at a man with whom he had quarreled. 

Lamon says— and from Lamon alone do we hear of any such 
thing— that Lincoln suspected Gurowski. 

So far as my personal safety is concerned, Gurowski is the only man 
who has given me a serious thought of a personal nature. From the 
known disposition of the man, he is dangerous wherever he may be. I 


have sometimes thought that he might try to take my life. It would be 
just like him to do such a thing. 

Thus Lamon quotes Lincoln. We know, however, that Gurowski 
was explicit in his dislike of Lamon, and by way of returning the 
compliment Lamon may possibly have enlarged upon some chance 
utterance of Lincoln's. Gurowski detested Seward and Sumner 
about as thoroughly as he did Lincoln, but neither of them seems 
ever to have been worried regarding him. Nor was John Hay, 
though Gurowski, on seeing Hay in Mrs. Charles Earnes' parlor, 
would go out growling. 

Few could have recalled that in Washington an attempt had 
one time been made to shoot a President. It was on January 30th, 
1835. Funeral ceremonies in honor of Warren R. Davis, a mem- 
ber from North Carolina, had just been held in the Hall of Repre- 
sentatives. (This was the room later known as Statuary Hall, or 
sometimes as the National Chamber of Horrors.) A procession was 
formed to escort the body and President Jackson, walking in the 
procession, was stepping out on the portico. Suddenly at point- 
blank range a man leveled a pistol at him and drew the trigger. 
The cap exploded but the pistol missed fire. Quickly the man 
tried a second pistol— with like result. Jackson dashed at him with 
uplifted cane, and a Lieutenant Gedney of the Navy knocked the 
fellow down. He turned out to be an Englishman named Law- 
rence—Samuel Lawrence, a house painter. Harriet Martineau was 
there and saw Lawrence's "hands and half-bare arms struggling 
above the heads of the crowd in resistance to being handcuffed." 22 

The Globe insinuated that "a secret conspiracy had prompted 
the perpetration of the horrible deed." For a while the President 
himself believed as much; and it is said that he even had grave 
doubts of an old friend, George Poindexter of Mississippi. Law- 
rence was, however, adjudged irresponsible (he said that Jackson 
had deprived him of the British crown), and no evidence of con- 
spiracy was shown. An expert in small arms figured that the chance 
of two successive misfires was one in one hundred and twenty-five 
thousand. So near did Andrew Jackson come to being the first 
President of the United States struck down by a bullet. 

23 "Retrospect of Western Travel": vol. i, pp. 161-164. 


ABOUT the middle of February 1861, L. E. Chittenden (after- 
ward Register of the Treasury) and another "Young Republican" 
—both of them members of a "committee of safety" in Washington 
—visited Baltimore, bent upon their own special inquiries. From 
a Unionist group there they culled divers particulars of subver- 
sive activities in that city, and these they transmitted to Elihu 
Washburne. In the story as Chittenden told it after a lapse of 
years, one detail now stands out— a cursory reference to an un- 
named actor who at clandestine meetings was wont to recite pas- 
sages of "Julius Caesar." 

Among actors familiar to Baltimore was a young man of whom 
a sister long remembered that when studying at home he chose 
"Julius Caesar" as an elocutionary practice-piece and by the hour 
declaimed its mouth-filling speeches, permitting no deviations 
from the text in so much as a syllable. He was, it happens, the 
same young man whom we found playing at Albany's Gayety 
Theatre on the night of February 18th, 1861, and whose disunion 
views were loudly expressed and ill-received at Stanwix Hall. It 
has been charged that he was among those who during the "three 
glorious days" (April 19th, 20th, and 21st, 1861) went out in par- 
ties from Baltimore, under the direction of Marshal Kane, to burn 
bridges on railway lines running northward. 1 

Perhaps he was. It would have been like him. He said fiercely 

1 This was asserted by W. G. Snethen, a lawyer of Baltimore, in The Common- 
wealth (Boston), Apr. 22, 1865; p. 2. It could have been possible. Booth did not 
open his third Albany engagement until the night of Apr. 22, 1861. (Snethen was a 
member of the Republican committee from Baltimore that went to Pennsylvania 
to greet Lincoln on his journey to Washington.) 



of Lincoln: "That sectional candidate should never have been 
President, the votes were doubled to seat him. He was smuggled 
through Maryland to the White House. . . . Look at the cannon 
on the heights of Baltimore. It needed just that to keep her quiet. 
. . . He is Bonaparte in one great move, that is, by overturning 
this blind Republic and making himself a king." 

Around the young actor's life has been woven an intricate veil 
of fictions. The fictions begin with his birth, for 1839 has often 
been given as the year; Belgium has been mentioned as the place; 
and he has been called the youngest of the Booths. John Wilkes 
Booth was born on May 10th, 1838, three miles east of Belair, 
county-town of Harford (not, as occasionally printed, Hartford) 
County, Maryland, and some twenty-five miles northeast of Balti- 
more; and he was the next to the youngest of the family. His 
name was from the eighteenth-century English reformer John 
Wilkes, a rather scandalous individual who did good service for 
popular liberties in Britain, criticized George the Third, sought 
justice for the American colonies, and in spite of all became lord 
mayor of London. To this John Wilkes the great-grandmother of 
John Wilkes Booth, Elizabeth Wilkes, was said to have been re- 

John Wilkes Booth— known to his brothers as simply John or 
Johnny— has been pictured as a villain from his cradle; as a half- 
demoniac creature of savage instincts; as a "ham" actor— ranting, 
boisterous, lazy, devoid of talent; as a showy fellow, coarse- 
grained, trivial, and vain. He has been variously described as the 
hireling of a Southern junto, an emissary of the Roman Church, 
the accomplice of Andrew Johnson in a scheme of high-vaulting 
ambition, the allotted deputy of the Knights of the Golden Circle, 
the avenger of a friend, the spearhead of a cabal within the Fed- 
eral government. 

He it was whose frenzy closed one era of our national life and 
opened another. But both government and qualified historians 
tried to dismiss him into limbo; a superficial and false chronicle 
was established in the record; and the whole subject quite natu- 
rally fell into the hands of "historical" novelists, novelizing jour- 
nalists, and persons with axes to grind. 

Much of what has since been written regarding John Booth is 


a dilution of a series of popular articles by George Alfred Town- 
send ("Gath"), special correspondent of the New York World. 
When his articles were issued in pamphlet form, the author, just 
turned twenty-four, guardedly explained that they did not "as- 
sume to be literal history." "As a brochure of the day,— nothing 
more," he said, "—I give these Sketches of a Correspondent to the 
public." They supplied a lack at the time but, as Townsend him- 
self was evidently aware, they offered no proper substance for the 
conscientious historian or biographer. 2 Beginning with Townsend, 
all sorts of erroneous ideas have thickly collected round Booth, 
his deed, his fate; and on this account, as well as through general 
ignorance, it has been possible to foist specious pseudo-history and 
sham biography upon the ordinary reader. 

In 1821 "Booth the Elder"— Junius Brutus Booth, English tra- 
gedian, rival of Edmund Kean— came from his London triumphs 
to the United States. For three decades he continued popular with 
American audiences, which delighted in his forceful, impetuous 
style and in the often apocryphal tales of his eccentricities. 3 Even 
during his lifetime he acquired an almost legendary character. 
There was, in fact, a curious suggestion that he had a "double" 
for whose vagaries he frequently was blamed. This double, it was 
said, was impressed into making a stage appearance for him on at 
least one occasion, and had an embarrassing way of declaiming 
Shakespeare at street corners and then passing the hat. 

In his stateroom on a Mississippi steamboat the elder Booth 
died forlornly in 1852. Drink had beclouded his life and his art, 
and made his unstable nature more difficult. When his antic dis- 
position was on, he was strange enough. Yet it will hardly do to 
label him a madman. He was linguist, playwright, scholar, eclectic 
philosopher; and as an actor he must have been touched with 
authentic genius. 

Pathetic rather than amusing is his own revealing memoran- 
dum—made at a time when theaters were bidding for his services 
—of his wish to become keeper of the Hatteras light. He was to 

3 Townsend's novel "Katy of Catoctin" introduces Booth and contains some use- 
ful first-hand notes. His "How Wilkes Booth Crossed the Potomac," in the Century 
for April 1884, is a valuable study. 

3 British opinion has rated him less highly. See, for example, the "Dictionary of 
National Biography." 


have twenty acres of land and to raise his own vegetables and 
fruits. Eventually, in the isolation of the Harford woodlands, on a 
property of 150 acres, he found the resting place he had sought. 
It was pleasant, after seasons of heavy repertoire and tedious jour- 
neys, to return to this peace— to open-air living, to mockingbirds 
and orioles. An earlier log dwelling was replaced by a brick cot- 
tage showing an English influence in gables, casements, and 
diamond panes. Orchard and vineyard were planted; barn, stables, 
dairy were built, and quarters for the Negro slaves who did most 
of the heavy labor of the farm. For Massa Brutus viewed farming 
seriously— subscribing to an agricultural paper, studying the uses 
of fertilizers, and taking a deep pride in the fact that his homespun 
blankets and other woolens were from the backs of his own 
sheep. To his few Negroes he was kind and liberal. 

Such was the environment, such the rural atmosphere into 
which John Booth was born. Despite Junius Brutus' reputed ir- 
regularities, there seems to have been nothing specially outlandish 
or peculiar about that home. Undoubtedly it had an English tinge, 
did not run true to the conventional ways of the region, and 
hence would be an object of mistrustful comment among the 
neighbors. There was, too, a further count against it. 

In 1838 Richard Booth, the grandfather, was living in the 
household at Belair. As a young man he had set out for America 
during the Revolutionary War to enlist in the cause of freedom; 
and though he did not then reach these shores, yet as a barrister 
in London he adorned his drawing room with a portrait of Wash- 
ington to which all on entering were requested to bow. Finally, 
in days of quiet, he did get to America; and around Belair and 
Hickory and Churchville it was told to his shame that he wrought 
what he could in freedom's cause by helping many a slave to es- 
cape to the soil of Pennsylvania. This was French "red republi- 
canism" with a vengeance, and quite sufficient to establish him 
and the whole menage as an odd lot. Inasmuch as he died in 1839, 
it is not likely that he was remembered by John, who assuredly 
did not at all partake of his spirit. John T. Ford says (in the 
Ford MSS.) that although Richard never was prosecuted, Junius 
Brutus "did on more than one occasion pay for a runaway." ("A 
representative from Louisiana [Morse], during the debate on the 


compromise of 1850, said in the House: 'A Union is not worth a 
curse as long as distinction exists between negroes and horses.' 
'Niggers are property, sir,' an illiterate slave-holder told Olmsted, 
'the same as horses and cattle; and nobody has any more right to 
help a negro that has run away than he has to steal a horse.' ") 4 

Junius Brutus held opinion with Pythagoras as to the taking of 
animal life; and while he was in charge at the farm, all life there, 
both wild and domestic, was supposed to be sacred— even turkey 
buzzards and copperheads were to be spared. "Cruelty," he said, 
"is the offspring of idleness of mind and beastly ignorance, and, in 
children, should be repressed and not encouraged, as is too often 
the case, by unthinking beings who surround them." Though on 
moonlit nights in autumn the countryside echoed to the baying of 
hounds, the Booth boys took no part in the 'possum-hunt. Pre- 
sumably the neighbors thought this queer, for it was against the 
custom of the country; but it was not a kind of training calculated 
to make lads careless with firearms. When John Booth was a 
youngster, his sensibility led him to rescue a katydid or even to 
go out of his way to avoid injuring a lightning bug. 

From 1842 onward we find the Booths living for part of the 
year in Baltimore— first on High Street, then on Front Street, and 
lastly at 62 North Exeter. John went to school in Baltimore, 
though vacations were passed at the farm. According to his sister 
Asia, he was, as a student, less quickly receptive than his brothers, 
but more persevering and tenacious. To the family's diversion he 
toiled away at memorizing parts of Byron's "Giaour"— years after- 
ward he could repeat them word for word. Nor was he moody or 
"temperamental." It was not he but Asia who was the refractory 
subject of the hypothetical "goddess of good temper" that presided 
over the house. 

John's eldest brother, Junius Brutus the second— known in the 
family as June— had been born in 1821 and was therefore consid- 
erably older. Large, robust, jovial, he had entered a theatrical 
career as actor and manager. As an actor he was capable but not 
highly gifted, the title role in "King John" being considered his 
best part. In his later years he conducted a resort hotel at Man- 
chester-by-the-Sea in Massachusetts. Edwin, older than John by 

4 Rhodes, vol. i, p. 369. 


more than four years, made his professional debut at sixteen, and 
after John's schooldays in Baltimore the two saw comparatively 
little of each other. In 1852 Edwin left for California, where he 
appeared under June's management; then as a star he went in 
1854 with Laura Keene to Sydney and Melbourne; and on his way 
back from Australia he briefly managed the Royal Hawaiian The- 
tre at Honolulu. Joseph Adrien ("Doc"), less than two years 
younger than John, had no bent for the stage but after a medical 
course became an ear-and-throat specialist and opened an office in 
New York. The older sister, Rosalie (usually called Rose), was of 
delicate health and so withdrawn that, although she lived to be 
sixty-five, it has been said that she died in infancy. She devoted 
herself to the care of the mother, Mary Ann Booth, an exceptional 
woman, whose favorite was ever the affectionate but careless John. 
At the Exeter Street house Edwin and John got up private 
theatricals, the casts of which were filled out with young friends. 
An actor often taking part was Henry W. Mears, who almost to his 
ninety-first birthday vigorously survived as a direct link with John 
Booth, whom he knew well, and with events in Baltimore during 
the Civil War period and the years immediately thereafter. John 
was for a time a pupil at a boarding school in a Quaker settlement 
at Cockeysville, Baltimore County. It was while he was there that, 
in the very pattern of melodrama, a Gypsy read his fortune from 
his hand. He jotted down her words: 

Ah, you've a bad hand. . . . You'll break hearts, they'll be nothing to 
you. You'll die young. . . . You're born under an unlucky star. You've 
got in your hand a thundering crowd of enemies. . . . You'll make a bad 
end, and have plenty to love you afterwards. . . . Now, young sir, I've 
never seen a worse hand, and I wish I hadn't seen it. . . . 

He had laughed at this— but ever and again it would trouble 
him. 5 

With his younger brother he was next sent to St. Timothy's 
Hall at Catonsville, a military academy under Episcopalian aus- 
pices. Most of the cadets were from the South and all of John's 
intimates were Southerners. The corps was drilled in the use of 
the rifle and of light artillery; and on Wednesday and Saturday 

"Farjeon (ed.), "The Unlocked Book" (Eng. ed.); pp. 57-58. 


afternoons, when school did not keep, John and others with Colt's 
revolvers ranged the near-by woods in quest of small game. Thus, 
exempt from the ban that obtained at the Booth farm, he became 
a good shot. While at the Hall he was baptized into the Episcopal 
Church. In after days a classmate described him as "noble in 
mind, generous to a fault, and honorable in all his actions." The 
cadets nicknamed him "Billy Bowlegs"; but if his legs were bowed 
(as several have said they were), it must have been but slightly, 
for in subsequent portraits of him the defect is not noticeable. 
Contemporary evidence presents him as of winning appearance, 
charming manners, lively disposition, and kindly nature. 

There was but one thing about him, one strain in him, that his 
mates remembered as seeming different and peculiar. When they 
would discuss cherished ambitions— how they dreamed of out- 
shining Reverdy Johnson, perhaps, or Webster, or some other 
distinguished American— John seemed to them to accent notoriety. 
No matter how extravagant and outre the deed, he thought of 
doing something that by its sheer impact must enforce recognition 
and insure remembrance. He once put his notions into this form: 

I wish there was an arch or statue at the mouth of the Mediterranean 
Sea, across the Strait of Gibraltar, with one side resting on the rock of 
Gibraltar and the other on an equally prominent rock on the coast of 
Africa. I would leave everything and never rest until I had devised 
some means to throw it over into the sea. . . . All Europe, Asia, and 
Africa would resound with the name of John Booth. I tell you it would 
be the greatest feat ever executed by one man. 

"Billy," a listener objected, "suppose the falling statue took 
you down with it, what good would all your glory do you then?" 

"I should die," rejoined John, "with the satisfaction of knowing 
I had done something never before accomplished— something no 
other man would probably ever do." 6 

It was boyish gasconade in an idle hour. We must not read too 
much into it— but 

The thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts. 

When he came back from the Hall, John settled down to farm- 
ing for a while, acting as overseer of the slave hands and of the 

6 "The Unlocked Book" (Eng. ed.); pp. 149-150. 


hired white labor needed at harvest. He was really fond of country 
living, of what he termed the "earth's healthy breath." In his own 
bookcase, besides schoolbooks and Shakespeare, were Greek and 
Roman histories, Milton, Byron, Poe, N. P. Willis, Longfellow, 
Whittier, and Felicia Hemans; Marryatt was there, too, and 
Bulwer-Lytton (Asia felt that John might not be benefited by 
Bulwer's wildly romantic vein); and Asia and John read Plu- 
tarch's "Lives" together, and Hawthorne, and quantities of poetry. 

John broke and rode a black colt he had named Cola di Rienzi, 
after Bulwer's hero. It may have been this horse on which (ac- 
cording to a statement of Edwin's) he charged across the farm, 
spouting heroic speeches and flourishing a lance, relic of the 
Mexican War. At any rate he was a skillful and fearless rider. Ed- 
win's impression of him at this period was of a good-hearted, fun- 
loving, essentially gentle boy, but a "rattle-pated" one, filled with 
Quixotic ideas. 

Asia, who knew him better than did Edwin, wrote, ". . . He was 
a singular combination of gravity and joy." His bedroom faced 
the east— he wished a morning view. He said: "Don't let us be sad. 
Life is so short— and the world is so beautiful"— the cry not of 
Young Werther but of Horace the Epicurean. Yet he liked sad 
music best— "Ben Bolt," for example, or the plaintive Negro folk- 
songs. Now and then he would recur to the Gypsy. Hers had been 
strange words; he knew them by heart. But, of course, strange 
words were a fortune-teller's trade when her palm was crossed— it 
was a mere pretense of occult knowledge. . . . What was it she 
had said? You'll die young. 

Though enjoying Negro music, he held toward Negroes them- 
selves, as human beings, an attitude of mingled amusement and 
contempt. His associations at St. Timothy's Hall had quickened 
his youthful prejudice for the South's "peculiar system" and he 
was becoming increasingly fanatical about Southern "rights." 
Furthermore, he was attending Know-Nothing meetings— clandes- 
tine meetings by night— and often getting home at dawn. Irish 
immigration into Maryland had given pro-slavery folk an uneasy 
feeling that in the long run slave labor would not be able to com- 
pete with free labor. The American Party (actually a secret so- 


ciety whose members were commonly styled Know-Nothings be- 
cause of their professed ignorance of its objects) was opposed to 
foreign immigration, and some of the pro-slavery element in 
Maryland believed that here was a handy means of curbing the 
inroads of white labor. Opinion in the state was, to be sure, di- 
vided on this as on almost everything else, but Know-Nothing 
tactics fomented disorder. 7 

Public mass meetings were also held by the Know-Nothings, 
and crowds flocked to these for an outing as well as for the ora- 
tory. At one such meeting in Harford County, John was conspicu- 
ous in gala raiment, topped by an official's badge. A great turnout 
was present, for the speaker of the day was Henry Winter Davis, a 
lawyer of Baltimore and Know-Nothing representative in Con- 
gress. When the Know-Nothing movement petered out nationally, 
Davis united with the Constitutional Union Party of Bell and 
Everett. Though still later he became a Republican, he was among 
Lincoln's bitterest and most relentless personal opponents. Much 
admired for his eloquence, he made a strong impression in the 
House, and his friends were roundly convinced that, had he lived, 
he would have left "the most brilliant name in the parliamentary 
annals of America." Under such leadership, there can be no doubt 
that young John Booth, with his prepossessions and his small ex- 
perience of the great world, was deeply influenced by the tenets 
and rites of the Know-Nothings. 

The farm did not prosper. A neighbor took it on shares but 
this experiment, promising at first, turned out badly. Then one 
morning John rode away on Cola to Baltimore for a few days' 
visit; and when he got home he said, with a new look on his face, 
a new ring in his voice: "Guess what I've done! I've made my first 
appearance on any stage!" He had played Richmond in "Richard 
III" at the St. Charles Theatre— "for this night only." 

Already he had been looking toward the stage. For ease and 
"deportment" he had studied dance steps with J. R. Codet, a 

'Lincoln wrote (August 1855) to Joshua Speed: "You inquire where I now stand. 
That is a disputed point. I think I am a Whig; but others say there are no Whigs, 
and that I am an Abolitionist. ... I am not a Know-Nothing, that is certain. 
How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes be in 
favor of degrading classes of white people?" 


stage dancer then well known. (Those were days when "deport- 
ment" was as much expected from a "ute"— or general utility— as 
from a leading man.) Gaining what he could from treatises on the 
voice, he had practiced elocution in the Belair woods; but Asia 
and he had decided that an instructor was necessary. He thought 
himself angular and ungraceful. "I can never," he lamented, "be a 
nimble skip-about like Romeo. I'm too square and solid." Asia 
had held the book while he recited poetry and Shakespearean trag- 
edies—especially "Julius Caesar." "How," he had asked her, "shall 
I ever have a chance on the stage?" 

Now he felt the chance had come. He confided to Asia that he 
wished to be distinctively a Southern actor, beloved of the South- 
ern people. There followed intensive home drill in acting versions 
of Shakespeare— in "The Merchant," in Cibber's adaptation of 
"Richard III," above all in "Julius Caesar." Though not a quick 
student, John was dogged; though untrained, he was determined 
and, as the untrained so often are, rich in assurance. It was useless 
to seek to dissuade him. After all, Edwin had ventured at even an 
earlier age— when only sixteen he had played Tressel. John ap- 
peared again in Baltimore— Baltimore, where he had so many 
friends; and this time it was to Edwin's Richard that he played 

In the summer of 1857 he joined the stock company at Phila- 
delphia's Arch Street Theatre, of which William Wheatley was 
then lessee and manager. The regular season opened on August 
15th, and among twenty-nine "distinguished names" listed in a 
preliminary advertisement was "Mr. J. B. Wilks— from the N. 
York Theatres, his 1st appearance in Phila." True, "Mr. Wilks" 
was not very distinguished as yet; and exactly how he could have 
been from the "N. York Theatres" we need not trouble to in- 
quire. Allston Brown's "History of the American Stage" says he 
made his debut as Second Mask in Hannah Cowley's "The Belle's 
Stratagem" and remained during that season. For the season of 
1858-1859 we find him at Richmond, where he was a member of 
the stock company of the Marshall Theatre (commonly known as 
the Richmond), then managed by George Kunkel. As Richmond 
in 1858 was a city of only about 35,000, the members of the com- 
pany were known, at least by sight, to many of the townsfolk. The 

From an O'd Print 


(After a sketch by J. R. Hamilton) 

This building (with the United States flag floating above it), at the corner of 
Broad and Seventh Streets, was built on the site of the Marshall (or Richmond) 
Theatre, upon whose stage John Booth appeared as a member of the stock 
company. The older building, opened November 14th, 1838, was burned 
January 2nd, 1862; that here shown was built the same year. A train of the 
Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac is standing on Broad Street. It was 
here that Booth entrained with the Richmond Grays for Charlestown and 
the hanging of John Brown 


season opened on September 4th and on the 10th John was writing 
thus to Edwin: 8 

Dear Ted 

I would have written to you before this, but I have been so busily 
engaged, and am such a slow writer that I could not find time. I am 
rooming with H Langdon, he has stoped drinking and we get along 
very well together. This climate dont agree with me. I have felt ill ever 
since I have been here. I called on Dr Beeal soon after I arrived here. 
He and his Lady seem a very nice couple. I like them very much. He 
has put me under a course of medicine, the same I have been subject 
to before. I understand it is that that makes me so languid and stupid. 
I have played several good parts, seince I have been here, Cool in Lon- 
don Assurance last night. I believe I am getting along very well. I like 
the people, place, and Management, so I hope to be very comfortable. 
There is only one objection and that is I believe every one knows me 
already. I have heard my name — Booth — called for, one or two nights, 
and on account of the likeness the papers deigned to mention me. How 
are you getting along. I had hoped to hear from you before this. Give 
Mother my love. For I may not be able to write her this week, as they 
are casting Miss Mitchell's peices, and I will have much to study. Ex- 
cuse this dull letter. God bless you, write soon, and believe me I am 
ever your affectionate Brother 


John wished to make his own reputation before appearing 
under the Booth name and for that reason objected to being rec- 
ognized by his resemblance to Edwin. "Miss Mitchell" is pre- 
sumably Maggie Mitchell, whose elfin performance in "Fanchon 
the Cricket" is among the finer traditions of the American stage. 

A rare playbill of November 18th, 1858, 9 shows John in the 
minor part of Poisson of the Comedie Franchise in John Oxen- 
ford's "Adrienne the Actress," with Miss Avonia Jones, guest star, 
as Adrienne Lecouvreur. He likewise figured in the afterpiece of 
the same evening, a farce entitled "Jenny Lind." Both personally 
and as an actor he became popular in Richmond. Socially, actors 
were then received more freely in the South than in the North; 
and John Booth was a social being. He was back again for the 
season of 1859-1860, which opened on September 6th, and in the 

8 From the original at The Players and here printed for the first time by special 
"Owned by Mr. Irving Greentree of Richmond. 


city directory for i860 his address, under the name of Booth, is 
given as the Powhatan Hotel. Partner with Kunkel in manage- 
ment was John T. Ford, who since 1854 had been directing the 
Holliday Street Theatre in Baltimore, and who had known John 
from childhood. 

George Crutchfield, one of those who often saw John play and 
who knew him outside of the theater, wrote of him, a half-century 
later, as "a man of high character & sociable disposition, & liked 
by every one with whom he associated." Though friends "joked 
him about his bow-legs," said Crutchfield, he was considered "very 
handsome," and in winter his fur-trimmed overcoat was a common 
sight on Richmond's streets. 10 

In his fascinating "The End of an Era," John S. Wise refers 
to Booth as he was at this time and as he seemed to Wise's older 
brother Jennings, who had been in the diplomatic service at Berlin 
and Paris. 

One night we attended the play of "East Lynne" at the old Rich- 
mond Theatre. The performance was poor enough, to be sure, to a 
young man fresh from Paris, but I thought it was great. On our way 
home, he remarked that the only performer of merit in the caste [sic] 
was the young fellow, John Wilkes Booth. In him, he said, there was 
the making of a good actor. The criticism made an impression upon 
me, who remembered the man and the name. 

After John Brown's raid, while Brown and those captured with 
him were in prison at Charlestown and while there was talk on 
the one side of a possible jail delivery and on the other of a pos- 
sible lynching, Governor Wise called out troops to guard the 
captives. The separate company of Richmond Grays was ordered 
to entrain by the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac, which 
left the town on the street level at a point on Broad Street not far 
from the Marshall Theatre. Just as the special train was about 
ready to start, John Booth came out of the theater and begged to 
go along. He was informed that the train was strictly for military 
use, but so earnestly did he plead that Capt. Louis J. Bossieux at 
last consented and a uniform was issued to him. Inasmuch as he 

"The original letter, dated July 5, 1909, is in the Valentine Museum at Rich- 


was familiar with military drill, he fitted easily into the ranks. 11 
From Charlestown a correspondent of the Richmond Enquirer 

The military aspect of the town yesterday was very gay, the weather 
being fine, and the troops availing themselves of the opportunity of 
making an exploration of the streets and alleys, many going beyond the 
suburbs. The Richmond Grays and Company F, which seem to vie with 
each other in the handsome appearance they present, reminded one of 
uncaged birds, so wild and gleesome they appear. Amongst them I 
notice Mr. J. Wilkes Booth, a son of Junius Brutus Booth, who, though 
not a member, as soon as he heard the tap of the drum, threw down 
the sock and buskin, and shouldered his musket and marched with the 
Grays to the reported scene of deadly conflict. 12 

On December 2nd John Brown was led out to die. The rope 
was adjusted— and then, said the Associated Press dispatch, "the 
soldiers marched and countermarched, and took their position as 
if an enemy was in sight. Nearly ten minutes was thus occupied, 
the prisoner standing meanwhile. Mr. Avis [the jailer] inquired 
if he was not tired. Brown replied, 'No; but don't keep me waiting 
longer than necessary.' 

"At fifteen minutes past eleven the trap fell. A slight grasping 
of the hands and twitching of the muscles was visible, and then all 
was quiet." 

As the trap was sprung, a private of the Richmond Grays was 
seen to turn ghastly pale. Those near him inquired whether he 
felt ill and he answered that he would like a stiff drink of whisky. 
It was John Booth, the young actor to whom mimic death was a 
common sight, who had been thus affected by the sorry reality. 

After his second season at Richmond, John strikes out upon that 
meteoric course along which we trace him at first vaguely but soon 
with some degree of clearness. He sets forth as a traveling star, 
beginning in the South. For a time he is at Montgomery, Alabama. 

n Account of George W. Libby, a member of the Grays (Weddell, "Richmond, 
Virginia, in Old Prints"; p. 203). Crutchfield, a member of the Light Infantry 
Blues, wrote: "He [Booth] was in the cast for that night's play & when asked how 
Kunkle was going to get along without him, replied 'that he didn't know and 
didn't care.' " 

"Nov. 28, 1859; p. 2. 


Wherever he goes, we are likely to hear of something sensational 
in connection with him; nor are these incidents the creations of 
press agents, for the press agent is as yet a bird unknown. At Co- 
lumbus, Georgia, he is "accidentally shot" and cannot appear as 
Hamlet, J. W. Albaugh taking his place. At Albany, New York 
(where on February nth, 1861, he opens his first engagement), 
while appearing as Pescara in Sheil's "The Apostate," he in some 
way strikes upon his dagger's point, which enters his right armpit, 
inflicting a bloody and painful wound. On the night when the 
Lincolns are visiting the city, he reappears in the same role but 
his right arm is bound to his side and he fences like a demon with 
his left. 13 On April 25th his third and final engagement in Albany 
meets a sudden end. He is at this time supported by Henrietta 
Irving, a member of the stock at the Gayety, who rushes into his 
room at Stanwix Hall and cuts his face with a dirk, then stabs 
herself, though by no means fatally. The cause is said to have been 
"disappointed affection, or some little affair of that sort." 14 

During the following season he roams widely. At the end of 
November he is at Detroit, whence he proceeds to successful en- 
gagements at Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburg, St. Louis, Chicago. 
Then on his native heath of Baltimore, at Ford's Holliday Street 
Theatre, he is acclaimed for his "incomparable impersonation" of 
Richard III and saluted as "an actor of undoubted ability and 
genius," for whom is predicted a most brilliant future. 15 

In March 1862 New York saw the reopening of Wallack's old 
theater (485 Broadway, near Broome Street) as Mary Provost's. 
It had been refurbished and Miss Provost, a New York favorite, 
was nominally its manager. "Miss Provost, we take pleasure in 
announcing, has had it washed," said the World. "She has, more- 
over, signalized her opening attempt at New- York management 
by engaging a star of real magnitude, and singular though fitful 
brilliancy." The star was none other than John Booth, whose 

13 Spirit of the Times, Nov. 3, i860; p. 144. Phelps, "Players of a Century"; pp. 

"She became the wife of Edward Eddy and continued upon the stage for a 
number of years. This scene has been represented as occurring at Madison, Indiana, 
yet an item in the Madison Courier for May 11 (p. 3) expressly places it in Albany. 

u Spirit of the Times, Mar. 1, 1862; p. 413. 


reception in what New York's critics even then termed "the prov- 
inces" had been noted in managerial offices. 

He opened on the 17th in "Richard III" to a house so crowded 
that the Times' reviewer was unable to get a seat. During the re- 
mainder of the week the theater was packed with enthusiastic 
audiences. It was noted that John strongly resembled Edwin but 
was stouter in build and stronger of voice, and the Sunday Mer- 
cury concluded that "under intelligent tutelage" he would make 
a better actor than his distinguished brother. Other attractions in 
New York were Lester Wallack; opera at the Academy of Music, 
with Miss Kellogg, Mme. Strakosch, and Brignoli; Gottschalk and 
Carlotta Patti in joint recital at Niblo's Saloon; Commodore Nutt 
("the $30,000 Nutt") at Barnum's— but John held his own against 
them all and was retained for two weeks more. His support was 

One night during this engagement, Booth as Richard seemed in 
the combat with E. L. Tilton as Richmond to become oblivious of 
his surroundings. He sprang at Tilton, who fought back desper- 
ately while the audience, sensing the nature of the duel, watched 
eagerly without applause. Tilton was at last driven over the foot- 
lights amid the shrieks of the ladies and tumbled into the orches- 
tra pit, dislocating his right shoulder. To a salvo of cheers he re- 
gained the stage and the curtain was rung down, the colloquy 
between Richard and Derby being omitted. 

The Times considered John a highly valuable addition to the 
limited roster of tragedians, adding "We cannot name a better 
Richard." The Spirit of the Times thought him immensely ef- 
fective as Pescara, admirable as Charles de Moor; "an actor of 
genius and talent, with the capacity of becoming very great in the 
more tempestuous sort of tragedy and melodrama." The World 
decided that his merits had justified his hearty welcome, that his 
faults were such as would readily yield to experience and training. 

In May he was at the Boston Museum for two weeks (from the 
12th to the 24th), and the management proclaimed that the ex- 
traordinary furore inspired by this young artist had never been 
equaled by any other Museum star. He enlisted, said the Tran- 
script, "the deep interest of our oldest and most intelligent 


theatre-goers" and "gave promise of attaining a foremost posi- 
tion." In a lengthy analysis of the relative merits of John and 
Edwin, the critic of the Post had this to say: 

Edwin has more poetry, John Wilkes more passion; Edwin has more 
melody of movement and utterance, John Wilkes more energy and ani- 
mation; Edwin is more correct, John Wilkes more spontaneous; Edwin 
is more Shakespearean, John Wilkes more melo-dramatic; and in a 
word, Edwin is a better Hamlet, John Wilkes a better Richard III. 

During the next season he returned to the Museum for four weeks 
(January 19th to February 14th, 1863). He had now added to his 
repertoire, appearing not only as Fabien and Louis in "The Cor- 
sican Brothers" but also in the comedy roles of Alfred Evelyn in 
Bulwer's "Money" and of Petruchio in "Katherine and Petru- 
chio." He seems to have made a special impression in "Richard 
III" and as Raphael in "The Marble Heart," but he played to 
full houses throughout and the Transcript characterized the whole 
engagement as "truly extraordinary." In his support were Kate 
Reignolds, Emily Mestayer, and William Whalley. 

Edwin, who had been married to Mary Devlin and had set up a 
home of his own at Dorchester, wrote to his friend Richard Henry 

I saw last night — for the first time — my brother act; he played 
Pescara — a bloody villain of the deepest red, you know, an admiral of 
the red, as 'twas, and he presented him — not underdone, but rare 
enough for the most fastidious "beef-eater"; Jno. Bull himself Esquire 
never looked more savagely at us poor "mudsills" than did J. Wilkes, 
himself, Esquire, settle the accounts of last evening. Yet I am happy 
to state that he is full of the true grit — he has stuff enough in him to 
make good suits for a dozen such player-folk as we are cursed with; and 
when time and study round his rough edges he'll bid them all "stand 
apart." . . . 16 

John's engagement at the Museum might, the Transcript 
judged, have been "continued with profit to the management for 
a month to come at least," but he was booked to appear in Phila- 
delphia at the Arch Street Theatre, of which Mrs. John Drew was 
now lessee. He would have opened there on February 23rd, but on 

16 As quoted in Otis Skinner's "The Last Tragedian"; p. 71. Copyright, 1939, by 
Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc. Used by permission of the publishers. 


the 21st Mary Devlin had passed away. Heading the playbill for 
the 23rd, a "Card to the Public" stated that John had "felt the 
necessity imperative upon him to join his afflicted Brother." He 
and Adam Badeau had been witnesses at the marriage in New 
York on July 7th, i860. 

He opened on March 2nd, and continued for two weeks. In his 
support Mrs. Drew took such parts as Portia, Queen Gertrude 
("Hamlet"), Queen Elizabeth ("Richard III"), and Lady Mac- 
beth. ". . . There is," said the Press, "no reason why he should not 
become a great actor." Fastidious playgoers, it declared, were 
convinced that "he possesses genius of a high order, which needs 
cultivation and development." Of his Richard the North Ameri- 
can noted that "every nerve quivers with the passion which his 
words give vent to; crime heaped on crime only seems to afford 
fresh scope for his determined will— whilst the climax of the play, 
the fight between 'Richard' and 'Richmond,' was never given with 
such desperate energy." Observing that the resemblance between 
Edwin and John "is very marked," the Press added: 

Without having Edwin's culture and grace, and without that glitter- 
ing eye, . . . Mr. Booth has far more action, more life, and, we are 
inclined to think, more natural genius. He does not play "Richard III" 
as well as Edwin, but he plays some parts of it in a manner that we do 
not think Edwin can ever equal. His last act, and particularly his dying 
scene, is a piece of acting that few actors can rival, and is far above the 
capacity of Edwin Booth. 

At twenty-four, John was welcomed as "a rising man" to the stage 
of Philadelphia. 

It should be obvious that this young player— not only sought 
by managers as "good box-office" but greeted in such fashion by 
the press of the leading theatrical centers of the East and ac- 
claimed by seasoned patrons of the drama in an era of gifted 
actors— was not, as has been misrepresented, either a foolish tyro 
or an empty swashbuckler. Indeed, the New York Herald speci- 
fied that he was "most mature, his self-possession extraordinary"; 
the Times, that he was "intellectually impressive"; and in Phila- 
delphia the North American added a good word for the "poetic 
spirit" of his Raphael. In Boston he made the greatest hit of any 
actor of his time. At twenty-five, after but a half-dozen years on 


the stage, he had a repertoire of at least a score of leading parts, 
nine of them Shakespearean— evidence that he could not have 
been exactly lazy. 

Among the people of the theater his ability was generously 
recognized. Mrs. Gilbert considered him "the most perfect Romeo, 
the finest I ever saw." To W. J. Ferguson he was "a marvelously 
clever and amusing demigod." "We all respected Booth because 
he was a good actor," said Helen Truman (a member of Ford's 
stock company at Washington). "As an actor," maintained Sir 
Charles Wyndham, "the natural endowment of John Wilkes 
Booth was of the highest. His original gift was greater than that 
of his wonderful brother, Edwin." Clara Morris ranked him 
highly, as did Kate Reignolds. All of these persons had appeared 
with him. "Doubtless," said John T. Ford, "he would have made 
the greatest actor of his time had he lived." Ford had paid him 
$700 a week— a high figure for those days— because he thought 
him worth it. John's terms to Ben De Bar of St. Louis were: 
"Share after $140 per night, and benefit each week." 

His personal advantages for his profession were many. He was 
of medium height (a trifle short, perhaps, for heroic characters 
but somewhat taller than Edwin), well-knit and well-proportioned 
—a gymnast, a swordsman who could take on two opponents at 
once and disarm both. His finely molded head, with its classic 
features, was surmounted by a profusion of wavy jet-black hair, 
parted at the back (in a fashion of the period) and brought up 
over the ears. The large, expressive hazel eyes were deeply set 
under heavy lids, and the mobile face, with its olive skin, wore in 
repose (as we still see it in photographs) a contemplative look 
that gives small hint of the vivacity, the gayety, the love of fun 
and practical joking with which those who knew him were well 
acquainted. Usually the mouth was largely hidden by a thick 
mustache that in part concealed the resemblance to Edwin. 

Offstage, John Booth seems to have been pretty generally re- 
garded as a charming fellow, simple and direct in nature, gracious 
and kindly in manner, a good listener, quite devoid of petty 
vanity. He frankly spoke of himself as lacking in flexibility and 
ease, and jested about his rather large hands, broadened by exer- 
cise. When a group of actors in Cincinnati praised him for his 


Hamlet, he quickly dissented with "No! no, no! there's one Ham- 
let to my mind, that's my brother Edwin. You see, between our- 
selves, he is Hamlet, melancholy and all!" His sister informs us 
that he had a pleasantly deferential air toward his elders and 
would give to bores and nuisances a patient ear. Under Edwin's 
roof in New York, Gen. Adam Badeau, who twice found refuge 
there (once when wounded and again after an attack of camp- 
fever), thought John— whom he had never seen on the stage— 
"very captivating." John, wrote his friend and manager John T. 
Ford, "was a peculiarly fascinating man to all who knew him 

Sir Charles Wyndham in an interview told of his meeting with 
John Booth in 1863: 

My first part was Osric in "Hamlet." During my introductory re- 
hearsal I wandered about the stage and finally chose an advantageous 
position at a little table where I could command a good view of the 
proceedings. John Wilkes noticed me there and smiled. A few minutes 
later the stage manager caught sight of me and rushed up in a great 
state of mind. It seemed that I had been sitting at the star's table, 
whereas my proper place was far back in the wings. I apologized, of 
course, but Booth didn't seem to mind. He spoke pleasantly to me and 
we spent some minutes in conversation. 

The courtesy and kindliness shown me by John Wilkes made way 
for friendship between us, and we frequently were together after the 
play. He was a most charming fellow, off the stage as well as on, a man 
of flashing wit and magnetic manner. He was one of the best raconteurs 
to whom I have ever listened. 17 

When at rehearsal of a combat his forehead was accidentally 
gashed and his eyebrow cut through by an actor named McCollom, 
John made nothing of the injury, waved aside apologies. In the 
profession he was open-handed with his money, liberal with his 
time, frequently appearing at benefit performances for others. 
"The late Mrs. G. H. Gilbert, who had acted with him, enter- 
tained a high opinion of him— a fact which speaks much for his 
good qualities. McCullough liked him. So did John S. Clarke. So 
did the late Edwin Varrey, a fine actor and one of the best of 

"Wyndham, who had been graduated in medicine from Dublin University, came 
to the United States in 1862 and was appointed military surgeon in the Federal 
army. He had some experience in amateur theatricals. 


men"— thus William Winter in 1915. An exception was Forrest, 
then no longer in his prime and unfortunately envious of Edwin 
Booth's increasing fame. 

At a later date John would have been classed by some as a 
matinee idol, for ladies wrote him scented notes in plenty and 
bought the carte-de-visite photographs of him that, with the por- 
traits of other stage favorites, were to be had in many shops. To 
Clara Morris, who watched him as he tore the signatures from a 
pile of unread billets doux, he lightly said, "They are harmless 
now, little one; their sting lies in the tail." Catherine Reignolds- 
Winslow (Kate Reignolds), who played leads with him at the Bos- 
ton Museum, said in her "Yesterdays with Actors": "The stage 
door was always blocked with silly women waiting to catch a 
glimpse, as he passed, of his superb face and figure." Women of 
the profession spoke of him fondly in after years. "He was very 
handsome, most lovable and lovely"— thus Mrs. Anne Gilbert. 
"John Wilkes Booth was a gentleman"— so insisted Jennie Gour- 
lay (Mrs. Robert Struthers) after half a century— "a high-minded, 
cultured man. They tried hard to make him out a barroom loafer, 
though." Clara Morris epitomized him as "so bright, so gay, so 

Naturally he had faults both as actor and as individual. At 
various times the reviewers mildly disapproved of his elocution. 
"Like Edwin," said one, "he occasionally minces his words, and 
uses quaint pronunciation"— which at least put him in good com- 
pany. One thought his voice husky while another found it low and 
rich but complained that he forced it overmuch, and a third 
spoke of its "grand melody." A notice referred in one breath to his 
soliloquies in "Richard III" as "of doubtful propriety in artistic 
view," yet allowed in the next that "it is Gloster all over"— that 
John has "fewer defects, to my mind, than any actor I have seen 
in the part for many years." His Hamlet was said to be less con- 
sistently excellent than his Richard, the scenes of intense mood 
and hurried action far surpassing those of philosophic introspec- 
tion—something quite probable in so young a man. "Mr. Booth," 
a critique ran, "seems to me too energetic, too positive, earthly, 
real and tangible for Hamlet; yet I have seen artists of great re- 
pute, who were all these in greater degrees." 


More frequently than for anything else he was censured for 
extravagances— for boisterousness, and in general for what Wil- 
liam Winter called "violent demeanor." His was the kind of in- 
tensity that had made Edmund Kean famous. We read of the last 
act of his Richard as "a tornado of rapid execution, hurrying the 
spectator along, with resistless power." We happen upon allusions 
to his "Mephistophelian sneer" and "demoniac glare" that "fairly 
curdle the blood." It was a sort of thing in which theatrical audi- 
ences had long delighted, and John Booth was fitted to sustain it. 
"He added," John T. Ford said, "a fine physical organization to 
his marvelous mental powers." 

But there were those who thought him sometimes too gory and 
too acrobatic for their taste— and taste was gradually shifting away 
from drama like Schiller's "Robbers," which has been described 
as "bloody enough to satisfy the appetite of a cannibal." "In the 
scene in 'Macbeth' where he entered the den of the witches," J. T. 
Ford related, "Booth would not content himself with the usual 
steps to reach the stage, but had a ledge of rocks some ten or 
twelve feet high erected in their stead, down which he sprang upon 
the stage." This leap— nearly from the top of the scene— he made 
with apparent ease, but it was considered unbecomingly agile 
in the Thane of Glamis and wholly beside the mark. Kate Reign- 
olds wrote: 

He told me that he generally slept smothered in steak or oysters to 
cure his own bruises after Richard the Third, because he necessarily 
got as good as he gave — in fact more, for though an excellent swords- 
man, in his blind passion he constantly cut himself. How he threw me 
about! once even knocked me down, picking me up again with a regret 
as quick as his dramatic impulse had been vehement. . . . 

... In the last scene of Romeo and Juliet, one night, I vividly recall 
how the buttons on his cuff caught my hair, and in trying to tear them 
out he trod on my dress and rent it so as to make it utterly useless 
afterward; and in his last struggle literally shook me out of my shoes! 
The curtain fell on Romeo with a sprained thumb, a good deal of hair 
on his sleeve, Juliet in rags and two white satin shoes lying in the cor- 
ner of the stage! 

John's artistic faults were of course due in part to a lack of early 
education, proper dramatic schooling, adequate discipline, and 
extended apprenticeship. At Richmond the company seems to 


have included no players from whose style he could derive any 
particular instruction, and dramatic criticism in the local press 
was negligible. From Richmond he went out prematurely as a 
star, going first to the South, where, as Asia Booth says, not only 
were his successes magnified but "even his errors were extolled." 
Edwin helped build the ladder by which he rose from "Ethiopian" 
banjo-strummer to the "Prince of Players." He fought his fight 
against defects of will and taints of blood. "Much of my life's 
struggle," he said, "has been with myself, and the pains I have en- 
dured in overcoming and correcting the evils of my untrained 
disposition have been very great." It seemed that John's ladder 
was obligingly let down from the clouds; he climbed with reck- 
less ease but without control or purpose. His sister assures us that 
he yearned for criticism, no matter how severe, if just. Possibly so. 
It does not appear, however, that he sought to profit by the criti- 
cisms he received, and not all of them could have been unjust. 

Growing more vehement, more headstrong, he became as extrav- 
agant off the stage as he often was upon it. "He was ever spoiled 
and petted, and left to his unrestrained will," Kate Reignolds 
regretfully sets down. "He succeeded in gaining position by flashes 
of genius, and the necessity of ordinary study had not been borne 
in upon him. No life could have been worse for such a character 
than that of an actor." 18 

One who admired him and saw in him great potentialities 
said: "Let us hope that he will subside, by degrees, into his proper 
self, and become the fine intellectual artist he has evidently the 
gifts to be." 

18 "Yesterdays with Actors"; p. 142. 



IT was in April 1863 that John Booth played his first engage- 
ment in the Washington City with whose name his own was to be 
so darkly united. In Philadelphia, as in Boston and New York, a 
devoted following waited eagerly to hail his return. Audiences 
were keener, heartier, more demonstrative then than now; and 
probably no other young actor had ever left behind him more 
good will among American playgoers. At his benefits they stood 
in the aisles (for there were no ordinances about such matters, 
and house rules were lax). After the play they would argue with 
one another as to whether John or Edwin were the greater; and 
they were likely to determine that whereas Edwin might be Ham- 
let, John equally was Gloster. 

So the playbills of Grover's Theatre for Saturday, April 11th, 
1863, broke into a great flourish of display type to herald the ad- 
vent of ''The Pride of the American People, The Youngest Trage- 
dian In The World! Who Is Entitled To Be Denominated A 
Star of the First Magnitude!" The play was "Richard III," with 
Susan Denin as Queen Elizabeth and J. M. Ward as Richmond. 
Historians of the National Theatre (Grover's) state not only that 
a "very large and fashionable audience" was present but that 
President Lincoln was there, with Governor Oliver P. Morton of 
Indiana as his guest. 1 As announced, the engagement was for 
seven nights only, the repertoire for the ensuing week comprising 
"The Marble Heart," "Hamlet," "The Lady of Lyons," "Money," 
"The Merchant of Venice" (with "The Taming of the Shrew" as 
an afterpiece). 

1 Hunter and Polkinhorn, "A Record of Fifty Years"; p. 47. 



It was at that time that Charles Wyndham (afterward Sir 
Charles, and a rare comedian), who was enjoying an interlude of 
acting before returning to his post as army surgeon, struck up a 
friendship with Booth, who was one year his junior. After a life- 
time's experience of the stage, he said decisively of John: 2 

A marvellous man. He was one of the few to whom that ill-used term 
of genius might be applied with perfect truth. His dramatic powers 
were of the best. They were untutored, untrained. He lacked the qual- 
ity of the student that Edwin possessed, but the artist was there. 

From Wyndham we learn that John's conception of Hamlet as a 
mad prince throughout was "fiery" and "convincing." 

Booth's reception was so encouraging that he decided to lease 
the Washington Theatre (which perpetually was changing man- 
agers and at this time was dark) and present his own "new and 
superior" company. John T. Ford's theater, on the east side of 
Tenth Street, between E and F, had been destroyed by fire on 
December 30th, 1862, and the new building had not yet been 
completed, else John might have appeared there. Alice Grey and 
E. H. Brink headed the support. Of John's performance as Rich- 
ard on the opening night, the Intelligencer said: "The effect 
produced upon the audience was absolutely startling and bordered 
nearly upon the terrible." 3 The repertoire for the two weeks 
(April 27th to May 9th) included Sheil's "The Apostate," Selby's 
"The Marble Heart," "Romeo and Juliet," "The Corsican Broth- 
ers," and "Macbeth"; and two nights were relinquished to J. 
Grau's Italian-opera troupe. 

"J. W. Booth," the Intelligencer descanted, "has that which is 
the grand constituent of all truly great acting, intensity." It said 
that he played "not from stage rule, but from his soul, and his 
soul is inspired with genius." 

In the autumn— from Monday, November 2nd to Saturday, 
November 14th— he was at Ford's New Theatre, which had been 
opened on August 26th with considerable fanfare and the pious 
hope that it might become "the accepted home of the Muses in 
Washington." Announced as "the gifted Tragedian" and "the 

3 New York Herald, June 27, 1909. 
3 April 28; p. 1. 


youngest 'Star' Actor in the World," he played a two weeks' en- 
gagement in a series of his best parts, backed by Ford's admirable 
stock company. On the 9th, the President and Mrs. Lincoln took 
four guests, including Nicolay and Hay, in a box party to see 
"The Marble Heart," which the somewhat finical Hay character- 
ized as "rather tame than otherwise." Whatever else might have 
been said of John Booth as an actor, few probably would have 
elected to call him "tame." 

On March 14th, 1864, he opened in New Orleans at the St. 
Charles (the "Old Drury") in his bravura part of Richard. The 
Picayune's reviewer found he exhibited "that subtlety which was 
so prominent in Gloster" and that "in the Tent scene, on waking 
from his horrible dream, his acting was remarkably fine." ("We 
cannot imagine a more terrible picture of phrenzied guilt.") The 
True Delta's critic felt that "if his powerful delineation of the 
'bloody-minded Gloster' is to be taken as a sample of his ability, 
then we cheerfully add our mite of admiration to the general 
praise and commendation his efforts have met wherever he has 
appeared." He continued: 

In physique, Mr. Booth is greatly the superior of his brother Edwin, 
being a much handsomer and larger man, and in no other particular 
that we could discern last night is he at all inferior to that eminent and 
much admired actor. ... In the tent scene and on the ensanguined 
field of Bosworth, he was absolutely horrifying, and while looking at 
him we could well conceive of the truth of the story that is told of Lord 
Byron, who, as the chronicler tells us, was so overcome by Kean's acting 
of Sir Giles Overreach as to faint away in his box. 

As the usage was in New Orleans, Booth played on Sunday 
nights, and this was additionally taxing. Excepting March 26th 
and 27th, he appeared nightly through April 3rd. In its final 
notice the Picayune said: 

Actors are not over prone to praise each other, but we have heard a 
good actor say that J. Wilkes Booth had quite as decided theatrical 
talent as any member of his talented family. It is a matter of regret that 
a physical disability (we trust temporary) prevented his engagement 
from being so gratifying to himself or to his friends as was desirable, 
and we look for his return here next season under more favorable 

The "disability" was a persistent bronchial hoarseness that 


seems to have made his utterance labored and occasionally in- 
distinct. (Blurred and husky speech was not yet esteemed a virtue 
on the American stage.) 

At Boston, where on April 25th John opened his third Museum 
engagement, the Transcript of the 27th reported: 

Mr. Booth played the part of "Evelyn" at the Museum last evening, 
with a tact, grace and appreciation of the character such as few but 
himself can exhibit upon the stage, the only drawback being the cold 
which restrains his voice. The company, too, put their best feet fore- 
most, and the large audience was kept in excellent humor throughout 
the evening. 

The Post of the 28th said: 

Crowded houses have thus far attended the performances of J. Wilkes 
Booth and this notwithstanding the prevalence of a severe storm from 
the very commencement of his engagement. Seats are in demand for a 
week ahead, and there is every indication that his present visit to Bos- 
ton will be crowned with even greater success than any heretofore made. 

We hear no more of the cold, and the engagement (which the 
Transcript of May 14th described as "very successful") ran to 
five weeks, giving "much satisfaction to the admirers of this 
gifted young actor." It has been gratuitously stated that John 
Booth retired from the stage because of the sudden loss of both 
his voice and his popularity. This is obviously contradicted by 
the evidence we have. 

In the diary of Attorney-General Edward Bates 4 is preserved 
a "sharp hit" attributed to Julia Ward Howe, who had just ar- 
rived from Boston (where John was in the fourth week of his 
engagement) and was giving a course of lectures in Washington. 
The story was that Mrs. Howe said to Charles Sumner: 

"Mr. Sumner, have you heard young Booth yet? He's a man 
of fine talents and noble hopes in his profession." 

"Why, n-no, madam," Sumner replied. "I long since ceased to 
take any interest in individuals/' 

Mrs. Howe's retort was: "You have made great progress, sir. 
God has not yet gone so far— at least according to the last ac- 

4 Under the entry for Thursday, May 20, 1864. 


On Friday, November 25th, 1864, occurred what was prob- 
ably the most brilliant theatrical affair New York had known 
up to that time. This was the second benefit in aid of a fund for 
a statue of Shakespeare in the Central Park, where the bronze by 
J. Q. A. Ward was placed at the lower end of the Mall in 1872. 
The performance was of "Julius Caesar" and was given at the 
Winter Garden, then managed by William Stuart. The date was 
noteworthy in more ways than one. It was Evacuation Day, an- 
niversary of the day in 1786 when the British quit New York— a 
day now largely forgotten but still remembered in 1864. On that 
night Confederate agents attempted to fire New York. On that 
night the three Booths— Junius II, Edwin, and John— appeared 
together for the only time in their lives. On the next evening, 
at the same theater, Edwin began his famous run of one hundred 
nights as Hamlet. 

For this "Julius Caesar," prices were advanced to $5 for the 
orchestra, $1.50 for the parquet and orchestra circle, $1 for the 
family circle— figures so high in those days that Stuart thought 
it best to remind his public that "in addition to the value they 
receive in intellectual enjoyment, they are contributing to a 
great national work, and not to the personal advantage of any 
individual." The World of the 28th said: "The house was packed 
full, and the treasurer obtained the handsome sum of nearly four 
thousand dollars (so reported) for the monument fund." 

"The audience," declared the Times of the 26th, "was fairly 
carried by storm from the first entrance of the three brothers 
side by side in their respective parts. Brutus [Edwin] was individ- 
ualized with great force and distinctness— Cassius [Junius II] was 
brought out equally well— and if there was less of real personality 
given to Mark Anthony [John], the fault was rather in the part 
than in the actor." 

Mary Ann Booth was there, a happy witness of this unique 
conjunction; and Asia was there, fancying that Edwin "trembled 
a little for his own laurels" and hearing a Southern voice de- 
lightedly exclaim, "Our Wilkes looks like a young god!" At the 
beginning of the second act— the scene in Brutus' orchard— the 
cry of "Fire!" was raised. A panic seemed imminent, but Edwin, 


coming down to the footlights, gave assurance that there was no 
danger, that the theater was not on fire. The performance was 
resumed and only a few persons left the house. 

The alarm had come from the adjoining Lafarge House. In- 
cendiaries sent by Confederate representatives in Canada endeav- 
ored to start fires in Barnum's Museum and in a number of 
hotels, where a mixture of turpentine and phosphorus was put in 
mattresses and bedclothes. In a few instances, especially at the St. 
Nicholas, considerable damage was done, but not at the Lafarge. 
One of the incendiaries, Robert Kennedy, was later arrested and 
hanged. In his confession he stated that he was a Confederate 
prisoner who had escaped from Johnson's Island (in Lake Erie) 
to Canada, that eight men were employed for firing the city. 
It was to have been done on the night of the Presidential election 
but the phosphorus was not ready. The intention was, he said, to 
destroy property, although everybody was of course aware that 
lives might be lost. "We wanted to let the people of the North 
understand that there are two sides to this war, and they can't 
be rolling in wealth and comfort while we at the South are bear- 
ing all the hardships and privations." The combustible material 
was defective and the work was botched— otherwise there might 
have been what Kennedy styled "a huge joke on the fire depart- 

John's appearance in this special performance of "Julius 
Caesar" was his last upon the New York stage. On November gth 
he had established headquarters at the National Hotel in Wash- 
ington, where with intervals of absence— usually for a few days, 
sometimes for nearly a month— he continued to stay. At the "adieu 
benefit" of the "celebrated Tragic Artiste" Miss Avonia Jones on 
January 20th, 1865, at Grover's, John, advertised as "the Favorite 
Tragedian," played Romeo to the lady's Juliet. On March 18th, 
1865, when "The Apostate" was given for the benefit of his 
friend John McCullough, he was billed as "The Eminent Young 
American Tragedian" who would "render his Great Character of 
Pescara!" Miss Alice Grey was the Florinda, McCullough the 
Hemeya, and Charles B. Bishop the Caleb Scrimmidge. 

Booth agreed to play for the benefit of Harry Ford, John T. 
Ford's brother and treasurer of Ford's Theatre— but he never did. 


He appeared but once more on any stage, and then in a new 
role, more startling than Pescara or Richard. He did not retire 
from the stage; he was drawn away from it. His professional life 
no longer constrained him as it had done. Though managers 
sought him, other interests claimed him. He must have disregarded 
or broken a promise to go to Chicago, for on Christmas Day of 
1864 J. H. McVicker of McVicker's Theatre wrote him: 

What do you say to filling three weeks with me, May 29th? I have not 
yet filled your time in January, and see no chance of doing so with an 
attraction equal to yourself. There are plenty of little fish but I don't 
want them if I can help it. So, if you can come then, come at the above 

John did not go in May, either— and there was reason why. 

Among his concerns had been the investment of some of his 
earnings. In December 1863 or January 1864 he had begun to 
acquire land in the oil region of Pennsylvania. He added to his 
holdings until by September 1864 he had (according to Joseph 
H. Simonds, who had become his agent) invested $6,000. Those 
who wish may find in P. T. Barnum's "Humbugs of the World" 
contemporary sidelights on the trickery and fraud that almost 
from its inception were associated with the "oil business." While 
"Petroleumania" was at its height, newspapers were flooded with 
advertisements, most of them questionable, of oil companies with 
all sorts of irrelevant names and all kinds of fictitious claims. John 
conveyed the impression that his undertakings in oil were highly 
profitable. Asia had that idea, and John T. Ford said: "He had 
given out that he had made a great deal of money in oil specula- 
tion, and I suppose he had, for he showed me a pamphlet— a sort 
of prospectus of oil property for sale— in which it was mentioned 
that the land adjoined the very successful property of J. Wilkes 
Booth." 5 Simonds admitted on the witness stand, however, that 
Booth never realized a dollar from properties in the oil region. 
His speculations, the agent said, were a total loss. He also pur- 
chased some real estate in Boston. 6 

In November 1864 he was down in Charles County, Lower 

B In an interview with Col. Frank A. Burr. See the Philadelphia Press, Dec. 4, 
1881; pp. 1-2. 
6 See Poore's report, "The Conspiracy Trial"; vol. i, pp. 39-42. 


Maryland, where he called on Dr. William Queen, who lived 
four or five miles south of Bryantown, and to whom he presented 
a letter of introduction from one P. C. Martin, a Baltimore 
liquor dealer. Martin had left Baltimore for Montreal, where he 
combined note-shaving with the running of supplies through the 
Federal blockade. Booth inquired about farm properties in 
Charles County; and from what he said of his tidy profits in oil, 
it was devoutly hoped that he would put his surplus cash into 
acreage there. Slavery was ended, labor was hard to get, and land- 
owners were willing to dispose of parcels at from $50 to as low 
as $5 an acre. 

At Bryantown church he was casually introduced to Dr. Samuel 
A. Mudd, who lived on the road from Bryantown to Queen's 
and at whose house he passed a night. There was a surfeit of doc- 
tors thereabouts, and Mudd, though he had a small practice, de- 
voted most of his time to farming. Booth seems to have made 
promises to Mudd and to a Dr. W. T. Bowman, but it does not 
appear that he actually bought any land. He did buy from a 
neighbor of Mudd's a dark-bay saddle horse, blind of one eye. 

In Washington he kept as many as three saddle horses at livery 
stables, the charge being a dollar a day for each horse. The ani- 
mals were usually at the disposal of friends. Behind Ford's 
Theatre was a typical Washington "public" alley, about forty 
feet wide, opening on F Street. Negro families lived on this alley, 
and there were also stables, one of which Booth rented from a 
Mrs. Davis. He had this fitted up with two stalls and kept in it 
first a saddle horse, later a driving horse and a buggy. He paid 
Burroughs (known as "Peanuts"), the stage doorman, to feed and 
clean the horse, and Edman Spangler, 7 a scene shifter and assist- 
ant carpenter, to do odd jobs, such as hitching up. All the em- 
ployees of the theater knew him and he had access to the building 
by all the entrances, coming and going as he wished— passing 
behind the scenes, into the greenroom, anywhere. 

His mail was addressed to the office, where he would call for 
it each morning when he was in town. John T. Ford, who or- 
dinarily came down from Baltimore three times a week, said that 

7 Spangler's name has almost invariably been given as Edward, but that appears 
to be incorrect. Spangler was a Pennsylvania "Dutchman," originally from York. 


he was used to seeing John in or near the theater at some hour 
during the day. Nearly everybody about the place liked him. "He 
had such a winning way," said one of them afterward. 

It was but a short walk to Ford's from the National Hotel. This 
was one of Washington's better hostelries and, being handy to 
the Capitol, was the home of numerous Solons and their families. 
Its bar was approved, and upholstered ladies a la derniere mode, 
with their intricate coiffures, haunted its Victorian parlors. Fa- 
vored by Southerners before the war, it was still a resort of Balti- 
moreans. Its "hops" were well known and largely attended, and 
John Booth, one of its notable guests, was often present at these 
social events. It was said that now and then at soirees he was 
prevailed upon to recite from the copious stores of verse he had 
industriously memorized in his nonage. 

Among those residing at the National were the Hales of New 
Hampshire. John P. Hale, a senator from that state, had twice 
been the Free Soil party's nominee for the Presidency, and against 
him Foote of Mississippi, an ardent duelist, had vented spleen 
in these words: 

I invite him to Mississippi and will tell him beforehand, in all hon- 
esty, that he could not go ten miles into the interior before he would 
grace one of the tallest trees of the forest with a rope around his neck, 
with the approbation of every honest and patriotic citizen; and that, if 
necessary, I should myself assist in the operation. 

Hale should be remembered for his plea in the case of the fugi- 
tive Shadrach (arrested in Boston in 1851), in which he said: "The 
mere breath of the slave-catcher's mouth turns a man into an- 
other man's chattel! Suppose John De Bree had said that he owned 
the moon, or the stars, or had an exclusive right to the sunshine, 
would you find it so by your verdict? But, gentlemen, the stars 
shall fade and fall from heaven; the moon shall grow old and 
decay; the heavens themselves shall pass away as a scroll— but the 
soul of the despised Shadrach shall live on with the life of God 
himself! I wonder if John De Bree will say he owns him then!" 
John Booth knew the Hales, who were described in the New York 
Tribune as "remarkable for culture, intellect, and every form of 
attractiveness." The Misses Hale— Lucy Lambert and Elizabeth, 
called Lizzie or Bessie— were much in his company at the hotel, 


and the town often saw him as their escort. He was indeed, as 
John T. Ford wrote, "caressed and flattered by the best people 
of Washington." 

Stage people were naturally among his friends— McCullough, 
whose stopping place was always the National and whom he 
highly regarded as actor and man; John Matthews of Ford's stock 
company; E. A. Emerson, also of Ford's— in fact, he seems to have 
been on good terms with them all. He had other acquaintances, 
too. In October 1864 the Surratts came to Washington. Mary E. 
Surratt, a personable widow of forty-five who had managed a farm 
and a village inn at Surrattsville in Prince George's County 
(Lower Maryland), rented the place to John M. Lloyd and opened 
a boarding-house in the dwelling at 541 H Street. 8 In addition to 
Miss Anna Surratt and her brother John (then about twenty-one), 
the regular household consisted of several boarders, including a 
Miss Honora Fitzpatrick and one Louis J. Weichmann, 9 a clerk 
in the office of the commissary-general of prisoners. Transients 
were also received at Mrs. Surratt's convenience. Booth met John 
Surratt and after that he was a frequent caller at the Surratt home. 
He seems to have been generous with theater tickets, and Miss 
Surratt and Miss Fitzpatrick each bought a photograph of him 
at a "Daguerrean gallery." The suggestion, made by inventive 
writers, of a "romance" between Mrs. Surratt and Booth is quite 
absurd. John Surratt wrote in a letter to a New York cousin: 

I have just taken a peep in the parlor. Would you like to know what 
I saw there? Well, Ma was sitting on the sofa, nodding first to one 
chair, then to another, next the piano. Anna sitting in a corner, dream- 
ing, I expect, of J. W. Booth. . . . Miss Fitzpatrick playing with her 
favorite cat. . . . 

But hark! the door-bell rings, and Mr. J. W. Booth is announced. 
And listen to the scamperings of the . Such brushing and fixing. 10 

Through a certified memorandum of dates on the National's 
register we know that Booth was often away from Washington. 

8 Surrattsville (now Clinton) lay about thirteen miles from Washington. The 
H Street residence was near Sixth Street. Its number, like many other Washington 
street numbers of the period, was afterward changed. 

9 He spelled the name Wiechman but the incorrect form became fixed in the 
record -See "Surratt Trial"; vol. i, p. 369. 

"Baker, "History of the United States Secret Service"; pp. 562-563. 


He checked out and in, not holding any particular room, and 
the entries disclose many absences of from two to ten days. Twice 
he was out of town longer— from November 16th to December 
12th, 1864, and from January 28th to February 22nd, 1865. The 
register did not show brief trips, such as, for example, to Charles 
County (where he is known to have been once in December 1864 
and undoubtedly was at other times), or to Baltimore. There 
was then no railway in Lower Maryland, but it was only about 
twenty miles from Washington to Charles County's northern bor- 
der, and Booth had horses. 

Train service permitted him to spend a long day in Baltimore, 
only forty miles distant, and to return at night if he wished. He 
frequented Barnum's City Hotel (where he sometimes took a 
room) and Guy's restaurant, across the street, and met his old 
friends, including Sam Arnold and Michael O'Laughlin. These 
two belonged to families that had been in Baltimore for years, 
and John had known them from boyhood. Each had been a 
schoolmate of his— O'Laughlin in Baltimore, Arnold at Catons- 
ville. Both had been in the Confederate army, and O'Laughlin 
had subsequently taken the oath of allegiance. Arnold was un- 
employed, dividing his time between his home in Baltimore and 
that of his brother William at Hookstown, six miles distant. The 
O'Laughlin home was at 57 North Exeter Street, opposite the 
Booth town house, the property being owned by Mary Ann Booth. 
Michael was intermittently in Washington, where he took orders 
for his brother, a feed-and-produce merchant in Baltimore. 

Baltimore swarmed with irreconcilables to whom the existence 
of martial law (which such as they had made necessary) was an 
unforgivable affront. When Gen. Lew Wallace took command of 
the Middle Department, 8th Army Corps, on March 22nd, 1864, 
he was not long in discovering that, even at that late period of the 
war, conditions in the Monument City were bad. Maj. H. B. 
Smith, assistant provost marshal-general and chief of detectives, 
had under his direction a corps of forty men and women, and 
they were none too many. "Blockade-running schemes were," he 
wrote, "without limit as to variety or manner of evasion." Men 
made a business of taking recruits to the Southern army. Military 
intelligence brought from Washington was relayed to the Confed- 


erates. Sloops and yawls braved the Federal patrol to land con- 
traband in Virginia. 

In Charles and St. Mary's Counties, Lower Maryland, stores 
from Baltimore were hidden in cellars, haystacks, and barns, 
later to be forwarded across the Potomac. Baltimoreans received 
and aided Confederate spies, who, according to Major Smith, 
would readily pose as deserters and take the oath of allegiance 
at Department headquarters. Federal clerks who lived in Balti- 
more's rooming-houses had to be guarded in their remarks, for 
anything useful was likely to find its way to the Confederate 
authorities. 11 

Mails passed regularly through Charles County between Balti- 
more and Richmond. They were sent to, and collected from, 
Bryantown (or sometimes Charlotte Hall) and reached the Poto- 
mac about twilight. On the Maryland side the official agent was 
Thomas A. Jones, a farmer whose house stood near the mouth of 
Pope's Creek, high above the Potomac and about two miles and 
a half from the river, of which long views could be had in either 
direction. On the Virginia side, in the "northern neck" between 
the Potomac and the Rappahannock, was a Confederate signal 
camp with Sergt. Harry Brogden in charge. 12 

At dusk, when the surface of the river grew vague and uncer- 
tain and the lofty bluffs threw deceptive shadows, a boat rowed 
by men of the signal corps would cross to the Maryland shore, 
where Jones had deposited the mail in the hollow of an old tree. 
If for any reason the way were not clear, a warning signal was 
displayed from his house. Galloping through the night, ferried 
over the Rappahannock from Port Conway to Port Royal, carriers 
posted on to Richmond, where next morning, only twenty-four 
hours late, newspapers from New York and other Northern cities 
were in the hands of Jefferson Davis' cabinet. Travelers whose 
passes from Richmond were in order were taken forth and back in 
the signal-corps boat. Jones— and sometimes others— also did con- 
siderable business in ferrying passengers, crossings being made 

11 Major Smith's "Between the Lines" contains a fund of material not to be 
had elsewhere, with transcripts of documents. 

"In December 1864 the camp was on the site of Washington's birthplace, about 
one and a half miles from Oak Grove. 


nearly every night during the earlier part of the war. None of 
these activities was permanently broken up by the Federal gun- 

To the military authorities in Washington, Lower Maryland 
was in greater part a terra incognita— to Baltimoreans, many of 
whom originally came from there, the region was familiar. For 
some of them who were "in the know," its short cuts, byways, 
marshes, runlets, and Potomac waterfront were as an open book. 
It was a land gullied by "branches," "runs," and creeks; with 
boggy tracts, the great Zekiah Swamp among them; its few roads 
poor and hilly, and stretches of its untilled fields overgrown 
with small pines. Many of the inhabitants knew little of the out- 
side world with the exception of Baltimore and possibly the "old 
counties" along the Virginia shore of the river. This section of 
Maryland has aptly been called a "Union frontier," and in many 
cases the indifferent "loyalty" of its people changed to heartfelt 
disloyalty when slavery ceased and the labor problem became 

E. A. Pollard, the Southern historian, boasted that there was 
"a real secession party" in Baltimore as late as 1865. Ladies of 
the town's "upper circles" endeavored to present to Col. Harry 
Gilmor, Confederate raider, a saber for which they paid in New 
York $125 in gold. No doubt they hoped he might wear it when 
entering the city in triumph. On November 1st, 1864, Major 
Smith intercepted the messenger who was taking to Gilmor the 
saber and a note from one of the donors. The writer of the note 
was tried, and sentenced to pay a fine of $5,000 and serve a term 
of five years in prison; but after a few days she was released. Gil- 
mor later told Major Smith that if he had been lucky enough to 
get the saber, he "would have killed many a Yank with it." 

Even the pulpit, according to the Major, was in a few instances 
disloyal in sentiment. It would not have been strange if in saloons 
on "The Causeway" or in other of Baltimore's "tough spots" the 
old pre-war spirit of the Know-Nothings, of the Blood Tubs and 
the Plug-Uglies yet flickered; or if zealots behind closed doors laid 
desperate plots. Asia had long before counseled John Booth that 
if he went on the stage he ought to keep out of politics. It was 


good advice. He should have followed it— and it would have been 
well if he likewise had kept out of Baltimore. 

He was here, there, yonder; and strange hints of him rise from 
unlikely places. Sometimes he was at Edwin's house in New York, 
where Mary Ann Booth and Rosalie made their home. The 
wounded Adam Badeau found him there in July 1863. Both 
Edwin and John, said Badeau, "dressed my wounds and tended 
me with the greatest care." 13 In June of 1864 Edwin had written 
to his friend Miss Emma Cary: 

My brother Wilkes is here for the summer, and we intend taking 
advantage of our thus being brought together, with nothing to do, and 
will, in the course of a week or two, give a performance of "Julius 
Caesar" — in which I shall undertake Brutus instead of Cassius — for the 
benefit of the statue we wish to erect in Central Park. 

This benefit performance, as we know, was not given until 
November 25th, and John had meanwhile taken quarters in 
Washington. In the middle of November he was in New York 
for rehearsals. His friend Chester, who played Trebonius, wished 
to know why he was not acting, and other friends joked with him 
about his investments in oil. 14 He was well acquainted in New 
York, promenaded lower Broadway, and patronized the "House 
of Lords," a saloon-restaurant on Houston Street. 

Politically, he must have found in New York much that was 
akin to his own spirit. Horace Greeley once said to James R. 
Gilmore of the Tribune staff that in New York "the ideas and 
vital aims of the Rebellion" were "generally more prevalent than 
even in South Carolina." New York was a center of forged enlist- 
ment, bounty-jumping, bounty-broking, seditious journalism. It 
was the town of the Draft Riots, and John Booth appears to have 
been there when they occurred. The riots began on July 11th, 
1863; were not finally quelled till the 16th, when the Seventh 
regiment arrived from the front and dispersed the mob. Houses 
were sacked; Negroes chased and hanged to lampposts; the of- 

13 John laughed to Asia about this: "Imagine me helping that wounded soldier 
with my rebel sinews!" 

14 The "oil business" and its maneuvers were popular objects of ridicule. Minstrel 
shows had skits about them. 


fices of the provost marshal wrecked. The Negro orphan asylum 
was burned. The mob, says Mrs. Lamb (in her "History of the 
City of New York") "tore down and trampled under foot the 
national flags, and robbed stores in open day; all business was 
suspended, street-cars and stages did not dare to run." . . . Mayor 
Fernando Wood had recommended to the council that New York 
secede and become a "free city." In New York Booth could not 
help sensing a disloyalty that, if it had not been resisted, would 
possibly, as Greeley declared, "have swept over the North and 
broken the Union into fragments." 

Asia, married to John S. Clarke, manager and comedian, was 
living in an old mansion in Philadelphia. John had now and 
then rested there between engagements— or, as the Spirit of the 
Times expressed it, had enjoyed his otium cum dignitate. Edwin 
objected to what he considered John's secessionist froth, but John 
could speak freely to Asia. One day, harping on his constant 
theme, he said: 

"If the North conquer us, it will be by numbers only." 

"If the North conquer us," Asia mildly replied, "we are of the 

"Not I!" he burst out furiously. "Not I— so help me holy God! 
My soul, life, and possessions are for the South!" 

From Philadelphia there was a busy traffic with the South, both 
through Chesapeake Bay and by land. Up to the spring of 1864 
contraband passed unendingly, some of it via Baltimore, some by 
other routes. The trade became more precarious after that but 
never was entirely suppressed. 

It appears from a sketch written by Asia in 1874, when living 
in England, that John as an actor had a pass issued under Grant's 
authority, that he had used this otherwise than professionally, and 
that at one time he was purchasing the best grade of quinine out 
of his own means and helping to smuggle it across the Confederate 
lines. Asia says that he went as far afield as Kansas and Texas. 

During the winter of 1864-1865 he was in Montreal. It was 
reported in the Telegraph of that city that he talked with J. W. 
Buckland, manager of the Theatre Royal, about an engagement at 
that house, and later mentioned his wish to get to Richmond and 
appear there for the benefit of Confederate hospitals. He took the 


greater part of his wardrobe to Montreal and left it in the care 
of a friend— apparently Martin, the liquor dealer of Baltimore, 
who had given him that letter of introduction to Dr. William 
Queen. His avowed intention was to go from Canada to Nassau 
and thence reach a Southern port on a blockade runner. 15 These 
runners were constantly sailing from the Bahamas and had 
brought to the islands a short-lived prosperity. 

At St. Lawrence Hall, then the leading hotel in Montreal (or, 
for that matter, in Canada) lived Jacob Thompson (who had been 
Buchanan's Secretary of the Interior), Clement C. Clay, Beverley 
Tucker, and George N. Sanders— agents all, official or unofficial, 
of the Confederate government; John Booth had stayed there, 
and there during the war a Southern coterie was generally found. 
George lies, afterward manager of the Windsor Hotel (Montreal) 
and a writer of authority in scientific matters, was then office boy 
to James Baillie, a wholesale dry goods merchant of the city and 
an outspoken sympathizer with the Confederacy. Baillie became a 
personal friend of the Southern agents and also of John Booth, 
who had taken lodgings in Cote Street, near the Theatre Royal. 
Mr. lies stated to the present writer: 

Several times I called on Mr. Booth with a book or other packet from 
Mr. Baillie, and sometimes I brought him a verbal invitation to lunch- 
eon or dinner. He was courtesy incarnate — with the manners of a 
Virginian of the old school. I remember him distinctly in the yellow 
fox-skin cap which he wore when photographed by George Martin, in 
his St. Peter Street studio. 

Booth was described by Mr. lies as "occasionally" a visitor at the 
hotel. 16 

In the "Personal Memoirs" of Gen. Phil Sheridan 17 is to be 
found a curious anecdote of the early days of 1865 in the Shen- 
andoah Valley. A man who went by the name of Lomas, and who 
said he was a Marylander, had been employed as a spy by the 
General— largely because he was recommended by Secretary 
Stanton, for whom he had acted in that capacity. He proved to be 

15 Testimony of S. K. Chester. Daily News (New York), Apr. 27, 1865; p. 5. 

16 Mr. lies pointed out that the references to Booth and to himself in Grace 
King's "Memoirs of a Southern Woman" are in many respects erroneous. 

"Vol. ii, pp. 108-112. 


unusually intelligent; but when his reports were checked against 
those of men detailed by Maj. H. K. Young, Sheridan's chief of 
"scouts," there were divergences that led Sheridan to believe him 
a "double spy"— that is, one also in the service of the Confederacy. 
"I felt, however," said the General, "that with good watching 
he could do me little harm, and if my suspicions were incorrect he 
might be very useful, so I held on to him." 

At the beginning of February, around the time when Major 
Young captured Harry Gilmor, Lomas requested the General to 
find employment for an acquaintance who, he said, had been 
with Mosby's guerrillas but had left them on account of a quarrel. 
At midnight Lomas brought to Sheridan's headquarters a person 
heavily disguised, who, having shed "various contrivances," turned 
out to be "a rather slender, dark-complexioned, handsome young 
man, of easy address and captivating manners." He gave his 
name as Renfrew, 18 satisfactorily answered the General's ques- 
tions, and evinced a familiar knowledge of Mosby and Mosby's 
command. It was arranged that during the following night Lomas 
and Renfrew should set out to burn railway bridges. 

From the moment they left they were shadowed by men of 
Major Young's force; and when it became evident that they were 
furnishing intelligence to the enemy, they were arrested and 
ordered to Fort Warren in Boston harbor. While passing through 
Baltimore, they mysteriously escaped from their guards and noth- 
ing further was definitely heard of them. A few weeks later it 
occurred to Sheridan "that the good-looking Renfrew may have 
been Wilkes Booth, for he certainly bore a strong resemblance 
to Booth's pictures." 

The projectors of the Great American Myth seem to have been 
ignorant of this story. They could have done something with it- 
could have involved Stanton in knavish tricks or deduced that 
John Booth really was, as has been claimed, an officer in the Con- 
federate army. Here must be registered the plain conviction that 
the General's suspicions were unfounded; for at the very time 
when Major Young's men reported Lomas and Renfrew at Stras- 
burg, Virginia, John Booth was at Edwin's in New York, where 

"The Prince of Wales had made a tour of the United States in i860 as Baron 


(so Junius confided to Asia) he was laboring all one night over a 
poetic valentine for "Miss Hale." On March 2nd, when Renfrew 
and Lomas were arrested, John Booth was in Washington at the 
National Hotel. Furthermore, resemblance to John Booth has 
been claimed for a staggering number of persons. 

During that fatal winter, when John was not acting and when 
so much of his time was divided between his new home of Wash- 
ington and his old home of Baltimore, there was on his part what 
Asia called "a turn towards the evil." It was a drift— we cannot 
mark any particular occasion; we can only take note of a change. 
He was becoming quick-tempered; he seemed weary and feverishly 
abstracted. When he was beneath the Clarkes' roof in Philadel- 
phia, Asia saw and heard much that was surprising and distress- 
ing. Late at night men came to the door, asked for John, stood 
whispering in the hallway. Some she did not know— others she 
recognized by their voices though they would not answer to their 
names. John often slept in his clothes and high riding-boots on 
a couch downstairs. 

Once Asia happened to inquire after Michael O'Laughlin, with 
whom she had been acquainted in Baltimore and who had en- 
listed in the Confederate ranks. John started. 

"Why, what possessed you to ask about him?" he asked sharply. 
Then more quietly, "He's home on leave." 

"Not in the hospital?" Asia persevered. 

"No. Forget his name— don't talk of him!" 

In late December or early January, John was in New York and 
called at the house of his friend Chester in Grove Street. He and 
Chester had known each other for a number of years— Chester 
had been a member of the Baltimore Museum's stock company 
in 1855-1856. Since their previous meeting (in November), Booth 
had written several letters telling of the profits to be made through 
deals in farm lands in Lower Maryland and urging Chester to 
invest. Now, during a walk from the Revere House to Greenwich 
Village, he disclosed that he was in "a large conspiracy to capture 
the heads of the Government (including the President), and take 
them to Richmond"— a conspiracy in which from fifty to a hun- 
dred persons were associated. 


The President was to be taken while in his box at Ford's 
Theatre and spirited away through a back door, which Chester 
would hold open, to the public alley. The matter was simple. 
Booth did not make clear just how he expected to get the Presi- 
dent from the box to the stage and across the Potomac; but he 
said everything was ready and that persons on the Virginia side 
of the river were joined in the affair. Chester asked whether this 
were the deal John had been writing about, and John said it was. 
Chester, in spite of repeated threats, refused to go into it. 

But John kept on writing— once sending $50, saying Chester 
must be on hand in Washington by Saturday night; and in March 
he was taking another walk with Chester in New York, denounc- 
ing "one John Matthews" as a coward not fit to live because he 
would have nothing to do with the enterprise, and assuring Ches- 
ter there was plenty of money in it. However, when Chester in- 
sisted on returning the $50, Booth made no objection, rather in- 
consistently deploring a lack of funds and stating it would be 
necessary to "go to Richmond to obtain means." 19 

This plan that Booth importuned Chester to enter into— this 
plot to abduct the President and perhaps others— is known to 
have involved John Booth, Sam Arnold, Michael O'Laughlin, and 
John H. Surratt. One Lewis T. Powell was also in the scheme. 

Powell, going by such aliases as Wood and Paine, was a young 
giant who had enlisted in the Second Florida, had been wounded 
at Gettysburg and taken prisoner, and afterward was detailed as a 
nurse at Pennsylvania College Hospital. From there he was sent 
to West Building Hospital in Baltimore; but he decamped, joined 
up with Mosby's irregulars in Fauquier County, Virginia, and was 
in that service until January 1865. He then took the oath of al- 
legiance and on January 13th a parole was issued to him. While 
in hospital at Gettysburg he had met Miss Maggie Branson of 
Baltimore, who was briefly acting as a nurse. He now went to 
Baltimore and lodged with the Bransons in the boarding-house 
that Mrs. M. A. Branson kept at 16 North Eutaw Street. 

At this boarding-house he "whipped"— to use Miss Branson's 

19 See Poore's report; vol. i, pp. 43-51. Chester said he thought it was in February 
that Booth mentioned Richmond, but it was shown to have been later than that 
(argument of W. S. Cox at the Conspiracy Trial). 


euphemism— a Negro maid who had been impudent to him. Ac- 
cording to testimony, he "threw her on the ground and stamped 
on her body, struck her on the forehead, and said he would kill 
her." The maid went to the military authorities to have him ar- 
rested. It was charged that he had previously been in Baltimore; 
but when expected witnesses failed to appear, Major Smith, who 
felt Powell to be a spy though this could not be proved, advised 
that he be released but decided that he ought to be removed from 
the Bransons and from Baltimore. So when Powell, under the 
name of Lewis Paine, took the oath of allegiance before Smith 
on March 14th and was paroled, Smith inserted in the parole: 
"& to go north of Philadelphia & remain during the war." 

Miss Branson, who from her own statement appears to have 
endorsed the "whipping," subsequently acknowledged: "I told 
Lieut. Smith that he [Paine] had not been North before since the 
war commenced. I at the same time knew he had; I did this to 
shield him from harm." She had "walked out" with the gladiato- 
rial Powell-Paine, and called with him at the house of a Mr. Heim 
on Paca Street. Mr. Heim, it seems, had "business" in Richmond 
—as did other Baltimoreans. Out of nineteen guests at the Bran- 
son establishment, Major Smith could discover only four that un- 
questionably were loyal. 20 Paine did immediately go north, to the 
Revere House in New York— he went with money given him by 
John Booth. 

His own story was that just before the outbreak of war, while 
stationed with the troops at Richmond, he got a pass and went 
to the theater. This was the first time he had seen a play; John 
Booth was appearing and Paine was delighted. After the perform- 
ance he sought out the actor, and these two, so vastly unlike in 
most ways, were soon on friendly terms. (John quickly made 
friends with all sorts when he chose.) In Baltimore at twilight of 
a March day in 1865 Paine was roaming by Barnum's Hotel when 
from the steps a voice hailed him and, looking up, he saw Booth. 
It is certain that John did encounter Paine in Baltimore and 
there drafted him for the abduction plot. As for the prelude in 
Richmond, search through the file of the Daily Dispatch from 

20 Smith, "Between the Lines"; pp. 255-258, 302-310. 

From a photograph by Fredericks (New York) 


"So bright, so gay, so kind" (Clara Morris) 

"No young man had brighter prospects in life" (John T. Ford) 


January 1st to May 8 th, 1861, reveals no mention of John in 
its theatrical announcements. 

Arnold specified the latter part of August 1864, or the early 
part of September, as the time when, to his knowledge, the idea 
of abduction first was broached. It was at a conference at Bar- 
num's Hotel, and Arnold said that he then met O'Laughlin, whom 
he had not previously known. Paine was still in northern Virginia 
with Mosby's guerrillas. The basic idea was to seize the President, 
convey him to Richmond, and thus force a general exchange of 
prisoners. Exchange of Confederate prisoners had been discon- 
tinued by the North and the man-power of the South had thus 
been considerably reduced. 21 

It seems that Confederate sympathizers in Lower Maryland 
were well aware of the plot and that details regarding it were 
spread by the "grapevine route." Many of these people would have 
been only too ready to further the venture, even though not tak- 
ing active part in it. Thomas A. Jones, the Confederate mail agent, 
though denying any connection with it, admitted that about 
December 1864 the understanding in Charles County was that 
Lincoln was to be captured while driving without escort near the 
Navy Yard. One of the conspirators would then mount the box, 
and as the carriage passed over the Navy Yard bridge Lincoln's 
captors would wave their hands toward him and shout to the 
guards, "The President!" Relays of horses would be in waiting and 
Lincoln would be transported to the west side of Port Tobacco 
Creek, about four miles below the county town of Port Tobacco 
and some forty miles from Washington. Word was, Jones said, that 
the "big actor" Booth was "in it." 22 

The plan unfolded by Booth to Chester was that Lincoln, hav- 
ing been overpowered in his box at Ford's, would be bound, low- 
ered to the stage, and carried to a vehicle in the alley. Arnold 
said his job was to catch the President when lowered by Paine and 
Booth. Another idea, it was said, was to take Lincoln prisoner as 
he walked the dimly lit footway between War Department and 
Executive Mansion; conduct him through the south grounds to 

See Arnold's narrative, Baltimore American, Dec. 7-20, 1902. 


23 Century Magazine, Apr. 1884; p. 826. 


the old Van Ness house, near the Potomac and "given over to 
the bat, the owl, and the spider"; and there keep him hidden in the 
cellar until he could be got across the river and delivered to the 
Confederacy as a hostage. 

From February 13th, 1865, to March 18th, J. W. Wallack and 
E. L. Davenport were lessees of the old Washington Theatre, 
and during the last week of their tenancy it was arranged that 
they give an afternoon performance of Tom Taylor's "Still Waters 
Run Deep" at the Soldiers' Home. Booth, familiar with local 
theatrical gossip, had undoubtedly learned of this well in advance, 
and also that Lincoln intended to be present. He assembled his 
group for a special meeting. 

O'Laughlin was there— a slight, pleasant-featured man, wearing 
heavy black mustache and imperial; so was Arnold, a gentle- 
manly-looking fellow with curling brown hair, and the beetle- 
browed, hawk-nosed John Surratt, and George A. Atzerodt, a 
thickset, hulking wagonmaker with a German accent. The six- 
foot, glowering Paine was there, nicknamed Mosby by some of 
them; and a "small man"— little David E. Herold, to whom those 
who knew him applied the formulaic adjectives "light and 
trifling"— a pharmacist's clerk once employed at Thompson's 
drugstore, where the Lincolns bought medicines. 

Atzerodt had been living at Port Tobacco (those who couldn't 
pronounce his Teutonic name called him that) and had agreed 
to furnish a boat to make the crossing of the Potomac. Davy Her- 
old had often been gunning in Lower Maryland, was supposed to 
know the terrain and to be somewhat acquainted among the 
people, and would be of use as handy man. Paine brought his 
muscle and his sullen hardihood. John Surratt was a Confederate 
"runner," taking dispatches to the signal-corps' boats on the 
Potomac, and he had carried on that work while drawing Federal 
pay for conducting the Surrattsville post office. He thought it a 
"fascinating" life and the Federal detectives great boobies, for 
they "seemed to have no idea whatever how to search me." Now 
he could pilot Lincoln's carriage across the Eastern Branch, down 
through Prince George's and Charles Counties, over roads along 
which he so often had driven a buggy with papers hidden un- 
derneath its floor boards. He had already left with John M. Lloyd, 


at the Surrattsville house, two carbines, ammunition, a monkey 
wrench, and twenty feet of rope. 

During the meeting, Arnold said, a dispute occurred between 
him and Booth. Arnold had given notice that unless something 
were done that week he would retire from the thing. Booth an- 
grily replied that Arnold ought to be shot for breaking his oath in 
that fashion. Since about February 10th Arnold and O'Laughlin 
had been rooming at Mrs. Van Tine's boarding-house on D Street 
and getting their meals at the Franklin House (corner of D and 
Eighth)— all, presumably, at Booth's expense. A horse and vehicle 
had been on call at a livery stable whenever they wished to drive 
out. Most of their time, as Arnold stated, had been spent at 
Rullman's, 456 Pennsylvania Avenue, "in drinking and amuse- 
ments, with the Baltimoreans besides ourselves congregating 
there." Booth had, in fact, subsidized the whole crew, and was 
now in a mood to express his authority. Arnold told him, "If you 
feel inclined to shoot me, I shall defend myself." 

This meeting was held, so Arnold wrote, on March 15th at 
Gautier's saloon-restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue between 
Twelfth and Thirteenth, where there were private rooms. On the 
afternoon of the 17th Booth and his ill-assorted company of six 
rode out Seventh Street and beyond the town— but to no purpose. 
Lincoln had been detained by his engagements and consequently 
had not attended the theatrical performance at the Soldiers' 
Home. Arnold and O'Laughlin forthwith returned to Baltimore. 
On March 27th Booth telegraphed to O'Laughlin to come with or 
without Sam, but no reply is in evidence. On the same day Arnold 

wrote Booth that "the G 1 suspicions something is going on 

there," suggesting that the matter be dropped for the present, 
criticizing Booth for mismanagement, and proposing that some- 
body "go and see how it will be taken at R d [Richmond]." 

He obtained a clerkship with John W. ("Wickey") Wharton, sut- 
ler at Old Point, and entered upon his work on April 2nd. The 
abduction plot, after hanging fire for six months, had at last 
simply fizzled. 23 

23 Arnold's confession, written for Provost Marshal McPhail (Baltimore), New 
York Times, Jan. 19, 1869; p. 8. Arnold's narrative, Baltimore American (Dec. 
1902). Weichmann's testimony is of dubious value. 


In a lecture delivered some years afterward, Surratt explained: 

It was our intention to seize the carriage, which was drawn by a 
splendid pair of horses, and have one of our men mount the box and 
drive for Southern Maryland via Benning's Bridge. 24 We felt confident 
that all the cavalry in the city would never overtake us. We were all 
mounted on swift horses besides having a thorough knowledge of the 
country, it being determined to abandon the carriage after passing the 
city limits. Upon the suddenness of our blow and the celerity of our 
movements we depended for success. By the time the alarm could have 
been given and horses saddled, we would have been on our way through 
Southern Maryland toward the Potomac River. 

He also stated that the conspirators did not learn until about 
three-quarters of an hour before the time set that Lincoln meant 
to attend the performance of "Still Waters Run Deep." This is 
hardly possible and is contradicted by other evidence. Still later, 
in a long interview in the Washington Post of April 3rd, 1898, 
Surratt declared that when the "wild scheme" of abduction was 
presented to him by Booth, he "simply laughed," knowing it to be 
"utterly impracticable." He then "dismissed the matter" and "sup- 
posed Booth had done the same." This is quite unbelievable and is 
only a minor specimen of the contradictions that bestrew the path 
of these events. 

Two others were cognizant of the abduction plot— John Mat- 
thews and Louis J. Weichmann. Matthews stated in 1881 that he 
was born in Baltimore, had grown up there, and knew Booth 
since they were lads together. In Washington during the winter 
of 1864-1865, Matthews said, Booth often dropped in to see him, 
and sometimes talked of the feasibility of abducting the President, 
though never confiding any of the plans. He heard the perform- 
ance of "Still Waters" discussed by Wallack, Davenport, and 
Matthews (who was in the cast). Some days before the play was 
given, Matthews took with him to Baltimore, at Booth's request, 
a trunk to be delivered to "a gentleman." This trunk was filled, 
according to Matthews, with provisions, toilet articles, and various 
comforts for Lincoln on the journey to the Confederate lines. 25 

Louis J. Weichmann stated under oath that he had once asked 

34 This was farther up the Eastern Branch, at the end of Pennsylvania and Ken- 
tucky Avenues. 
85 Col. F. A. Burr in the Philadelphia Press, Dec. 4, 1881; p. 2. 


Captain Gleason, a fellow clerk in the office of the commissary- 
general of prisoners, "Captain, do you think any party could at- 
tempt the capture of President Lincoln?" Gleason, he said, had 
"laughed and hooted at the idea." Weichmann later was in a 
sense confirmed by Gleason; but Gleason went further, declaring 
that as early as February 20th Weichmann had told him of a plan 
to abduct Lincoln and the Cabinet. The time set was March 4th, 
the day of Lincoln's second inaugural, "as then there would be so 
many strangers in the city that people's attention would be di- 
verted." This sounded to Gleason like nonsense. 26 So it did to 
Lieut. Josiah W. Sharp, Gleason's roommate and an assistant 
provost marshal on the staff of Gen. C. C. Augur, commander of 
the military department of Washington. Weichmann later said 
that he had told an enrolling officer named McDavitt and Mc- 
Davitt had notified the authorities, who were rather incredulous. 
If true (and there is no reason for doubt), Gleason's version dis- 
credits Weichmann's professions, when under oath, that what 
he said to Gleason regarding abduction was "merely a casual 
remark" and that he had no idea such a thing was really in the 
wind. Weichmann was a friend of J. H. Surratt, with whom he had 
attended a preparatory school in Howard County, near Balti- 
more. 27 

At the Capitol, before the inaugural ceremonies of March 4th, 
1865, an incident occurred that has been much garbled and some- 
times denied. The President and the justices of the Supreme 
Court had just walked through the rotunda and out to the east 
portico, when a determined and excited man broke past the line 
of Capitol police stationed in the rotunda to hold back the crowd. 
He tried to gain the east portal but Officer J. W. Westfall grabbed 
him. The door was closed, and after a scuffle the man was forced 
back by the police. 

His conduct was afterward freely remarked upon by those who 
had chanced to witness it, and the historian B. J. Lossing wrote 
that he heard talk of it at Willard's that evening. Westfall and 

36 Magazine of History, Feb. 1911; pp. 59-65. 

27 A letter written by Surratt to a cousin on Feb. 6, 1865, was on stationery of the 
Office of the Commissary-General of Prisoners — where Weichmann was employed 
and Surratt was not (Baker, "History of the United States Secret Service," pp. 562- 


other police officers, including Maj. B. B. French, the commis- 
sioner, subsequently claimed to recognize a photograph of Booth 
as that of the man in the rotunda. In April, at the "House of 
Lords" in New York, Booth and S. K. Chester were quietly 
talking when suddenly John banged the table and volleyed at 
Chester, "What an excellent chance I had to kill the President, 
if I had wished, on inauguration day! I was as near to him as I am 
to you." Though it may have been he who struggled with West- 
fall, he had not then determined on murder. Abduction was at 
that time his purpose. He may have been stirred to this outbreak 
by his extravagant, irrational dislike of Abraham Lincoln, who 
for a second time had defeated the endeavors of his enemies to 
keep him from office. 28 

The incident appears not to have reached the newspapers of the 
succeeding days. They spoke only of a Thomas Clemens who was 
arrested for "very disorderly conduct" in front of Willard's on 
Sunday (the day after). One of his random vaporings was, ac- 
cording to the Evening Star, 29 that he came from Alexandria to 
kill President Lincoln. "He seemed," the paper observed, "to be 
none the better for whiskey." The Intelligencer said there had 
been "not a single commitment to the District jail on the 4th of 

In the stress of later developments an attempt was made to 
trace the origin of the abduction plot to the Southern agents in 
Canada. This attempt was unfortunately bolstered by the testi- 
mony of one Richard Montgomery, a perjurer, and of his associate, 
one Charles A. Dunham, alias Sandford Conover, alias James Wat- 
son Wallace, a rank perjurer and an instructor in perjury, con- 
victed of perjury by the Criminal Court of the District of Colum- 
bia. Dunham's testimony as a whole was found to be an imposture, 
and any part of it is suspect. On the face of it, it is highly im- 
probable that a specialized transaction like this would be man- 
aged from such a distance. That Confederate agents in Canada 

28 New York Tribune, Apr. 28, 1876; p. 1 and Feb. 15, 1884; p. 3. Lossing's account 
was in The Independent, Feb. 14, 1884; pp. 3-4. An article by Lamon in the Wash- 
ington Critic, Sept. 17, 1887, had affidavits. There are no records of the Capitol 
Police prior to 1898. 

29 Mar. 8. 


were guilty of procuring and abetting the raid on St. Albans 
(Vermont), the essay at firing New York, and John Y. Beall's ex- 
pedition to free the prisoners on Johnson's Island, there can be 
no reasonable doubt. That they had anything to do with the 
abduction plot is one of those gratuitous suppositions that cluster 
around the Great American Myth. It is an indictment that, for 
lack of material evidence, cannot be sustained. 

Nor can the suggestion of David H. Bates 30 and others that John 
Booth, because he was in the city, may have been connected with 
Kennedy and others in the plot to burn New York. Bates, evi- 
dently conscious of this, turned from Booth to Paine and referred 
to a "confession" allegedly made by Paine to Maj. T. T. Eckert, 
chief of the War Department's telegraph staff. If Bates' account is 
faithful, Paine told Eckert much that was untrustworthy. In No- 
vember 1864 he was not in New York but in northern Virginia 
with Mosby the raider. Hence he could not have refused to be a 
party to this "crime involving injury and probably death." 31 

The authorities at Richmond cannot be shown to have been 
concerned in the abduction plot. It was after that plot had fallen 
through that Arnold, in his letter of March 27th, 1865, proposed 

that somebody "go and see how it will be taken at R d." It 

was then that Booth (who was out of Washington from March 
21st to the 25th) told Chester this would have to be done as 
Booth himself was "so very short of funds." Arnold in his confes- 
sion said explicitly: "The Richmond authorities, as far as I know, 
knew nothing of the conspiracy." 

It is in Baltimore that we first hear of the abduction plot- 
in late August or early September of 1864 at Barnum's City Hotel. 
Not only John Booth but Michael O'Laughlin and Samuel Arnold 
were Baltimoreans. Paine had become acquainted there— had 
found there, at the Bransons and among their friends, a congenial 
atmosphere. Surratt, for his part, was familiar with Baltimore and 
was constantly in and out of it, for it was from Baltimore that 
many of the dispatches proceeded that he sped upon their way to 
the Confederacy. He did not move from Surrattsville to Wash- 

5,0 "Lincoln in the Telegraph Office"; pp. 306-307. 
**Ib., pp. 380-381. 


ington until the autumn of 1864, and had spent his life up to 
that time in a part of Maryland that was closely under Baltimore's 

Both Arnold and O'Laughlin, like many another Baltimorean, 
had gone to the Confederacy to serve in its armies. Paine, it is 
clear, had no respect whatever for a parole. O'Laughlin and Ar- 
nold may have had, but they were among those whose records for 
disloyalty were on file at Baltimore in the cabinets of the provost 
marshal. The animus of Booth, so obvious when he seems to 
have been reciting "Julius Caesar" in stealthy conclaves or when 
he is said to have been burning railway bridges, was the animus 
of Baltimore's disloyalists, who had denounced Lincoln in 1861 
and, more warily, denounced him still. Atzerodt was a native of 
Lower Maryland, and Herold was the only Washingtonian of 
this immediate company. 

To what extent certain persons in Lower Maryland, especially 
Dr. Samuel Mudd, had knowledge of the plot, or whether indeed 
they knew of it at all, has often been the subject of prejudiced 
and futile controversy. That knowledge of it was widespread 
among the "right sort" is hardly to be questioned. Booth's in- 
terest in land was of course a mere subterfuge; an excuse for visits 
in that section. Both Mudd and Queen were, however, too far 
from the direct route between Washington and Port Tobacco to 
have been of any assistance in the proceedings. 

It has been asserted that the plot "might almost be called 
harmless, from its perfect absurdity and impracticability." Cer- 
tainly there were difficulties. Even if the President could have 
been seized when his carriage was unescorted by the Union Light 
Guard, it would have been no easy matter to spirit him out of 
Washington. The roads in Lower Maryland were heavy at that 
time of year. Pursuit would soon have been organized. As for cap- 
turing Lincoln at Ford's and getting him away— this seems even 
more dubious. Regarding the notion of lifting him over the brick 
wall, Sergt. Smith Stimmel wrote: 

There were those who thought that this scheme was practical and 
could have been carried out, but I doubt it very much. In the first 
place the captors would have had the President's great physical powers 
to contend with, and secondly, any demonstration of that kind would 


have been in close proximity to the guards at the White House and 
would have brought them quickly to his rescue. They [i.e., the conspira- 
tors] might have killed him, but I do not believe they could have seized 
and carried him away alive. 32 

John Booth was ready on Saturday evening, March 18th, for 
his appearance in McCul lough's benefit at Ford's. The fiendish 
Pescara, who so hated the Moors that he resolved to destroy them, 
had always been one of his most commended roles. Matthews was 
in the cast, and in the audience were Surratt and Weichmann 
(their complimentary tickets furnished by Booth), Herold and 
Atzerodt, to view their leader as he stabbed and to hear him cry: 

What if I rush, 
And with a blow strike life from out his heart? 

There were drinks afterward in Taltavull's restaurant, adjoining 
the theater on the lower side, and oysters at Kloman's oyster-bay; 
and Weichmann was present, accepting Booth's hospitality. 

Heretofore regarded as temperate for those hard-drinking times, 
Booth now was consuming astonishing quantities of liquor, 
though possibly only one that knew him well could have dis- 
cerned it. Brandy was said to be his favorite tipple; and as the 
duty on imported liquors was high during the war, the local 
price of a small glass of French brandy was usually fifty cents. 
What with one thing and another, John had been spending 
lavishly all winter. By John T. Ford's account, he "squandered 
fully if not over $10,000 of his previous earnings." He had dra- 
gooned his FalstafTian army but, as he hinted to Chester, its main- 
tenance had been expensive— and now it was disbanded and he 
could not rally it. All those months of work for nothing! 

From the saloons and livery stables where he met with his ac- 
complices, or from Mrs. Surratt's homely boarding-establishment, 
he would turn to the greenroom of Ford's, where he mingled and 
chatted with the lovely and the talented of his profession; or to 
the public rooms of Willard's, where officers sauntered about 
after dining and Congressmen talked; or to the parlors and ball- 
room of the National, where always he was a preferred cavalier. 
Only recently he had been seen at Ford's, occupying a box with 

33 North Dakota Historical Quarterly, Jan. 1927; p. 17. 


the Misses Hale. It was believed that he was engaged to one of 
them. Junius stated to a correspondent of the Chicago Times 
that such was the fact. Asia says there was "a secret and conditional 
engagement." 33 Mrs. Blanche (Chapman) Ford informed the pres- 
ent writer that in the world of the theater an engagement to 
Maggie Mitchell was rumored. 

Writing from Franklin, Pennsylvania, on February 21st, his 
agent Simonds complained: 

Your strange note of the 16th rec'd I hardly know what to make of 
you this winter — so different from your usual self. Have you lost all your 
ambition or what is the matter. Don't get offended with me John but I 
cannot but think you are wasting your time spending the entire season 
in Washington doing nothing where it must be expensive to live and 
all for no other purpose beyond pleasure. 

If you had taken 5 or 10000 dollars and come out here and spent the 
season living here with us, traveling off over the country hunting up 
property I believe we both could have made considerable money by it. 
It is not too late yet for I believe the great rush for property is to be 
this Spring and if you are not going to act this season come out here 
John where at least you can live prudently and where I really believe 
you can make money. Come John immediately We have plenty of room 
at our house now. 

You must not tell such extravagant stories John about me. We work 
very hard and from the office derive so far a very comfortable income 
but nothing even compared to what you used to make acting — large 
indeed though compared with what we formerly rec'd. We have not got 
rich yet John and when I do you will be the first one to know of it. But 
I do wish you had come out here and staid this winter and still wish 
you would come now. It would be more profitable than living in Wash- 
ington. . . , 34 

If John had gone, he might not have made a fortune in the 
"oil business"— even if the optimistic Simonds did look to a boom 
with the first rustle of spring. But the history of America might 
have been different. 

33 Philadelphia Inquirer, Apr. 22, 1865; p. 2. "The Unlocked Book" (London ed.), 
p. 118. 

34 Archives of the Judge Advocate General. 



"IF to be the head of Hell is as hard as what I have to undergo 
here, I could find it in my heart to pity Satan himself"— so, with 
that latent sadness in his eyes, the harrowed Lincoln once told 
General Schenck. At another time, in sprightlier mood, and 
doubtless with a wry smile, he protested: 

"I wish George Washington or some of those old patriots were 
here in my place so that I could have a little rest." 

Leonard Volk had made a life mask of him at Chicago in April 
of i860; and in the spring of 1865, at Washington, Clark Mills 
(who did Andrew Jackson on his prancing charger in Lafayette 
Square) made another. In these contrasting masks, more effectively 
than in photographs, may be read the toll that the war years had 
laid upon him. The second, as Hay points out, has the deeply cut 
lines "set, as if the living face, like the copy, had been in bronze; 
. . . the mouth is fixed like that of an archaic statue; a look as of 
one on whom sorrow and care had done their worst without vic- 
tory is on all the features." . . . 

It is the Lincoln whom Crook, on duty in the passageway, heard 
groaning in his sleep— the Lincoln who said to Owen Lovejoy 
("the best friend I had in Congress"): "This war is eating my 
life out; I have a strong impression that I shall not live to see 
the end." In July 1864, when a visitor, noticing how worn he 
seemed, had remarked, "You are wearing yourself out with 
work," he objected: "I can't work less; but it isn't that— work 
never troubled me." 

There had been the expose in Baltimore, the night trip through 
the city— the reluctant conviction that men sought his life. He had 



become identified with a cause, and all through his first term he 
was made aware that, hating the cause, men also hated him. Yet 
such was his nature, so inclined was he to "give all men credit for 
fairness and sincerity," that even after the mob attack on the 19th 
and the ensuing "three glorious days" he was conciliatory, says 
Hay, toward "a penitent and suppliant crowd of conditional 
Secessionists from Baltimore, who havinsr sowed the wind seem 
to have no particular desire to reap the whirlwind." 

As he waited for news of hourly developments in the South, 
office-seekers had at once beset him in droves, until he compared 
himself to "a man so busy in letting rooms in one end of his 
house that he cannot stop to put out the fire that is burning the 
other." When civilian patriots had rushed to urge upon him their 
singular fitness for a general's commission, he said he had more 
pegs than holes in which to put them. 

For his Cabinet he had selected those who would, as he thought, 
best serve the nation in parlous days; and as a result he had been 
blessed with a council painfully independent, inharmonious, and 
incohesive. Their reciprocal dislikes were always troublesome. 
As his bulky diary reveals, Welles of the Navy did not relish either 
Chase of the Treasury or Seward of the State Department. In re- 
turn it was said that Gustavus V. Fox, chief clerk of the Navy De- 
partment and later assistant secretary, was really the Department's 
brains; and some were not displeased when a petition to Lincoln 
for Welles' removal was exhibited in the Merchants' Exchange 
and Newsroom at Boston and "extensively signed." 

Discord reigned between Seward and Chase; and in reporting 
hostile or disloyal acts on Chase's part an under-secretary in the 
Department of State would finish with: "The old man [Lincoln] 
knows all about it and will not do a thing!" * Blair, head of the 
Post Office, denounced both Stanton and Chase. Chase encouraged 
conservative Republican senators who wished to get rid of Seward; 
but Seward, after an ineffectual experiment toward domineering 
over Lincoln, wrote to his wife that "the President is the best of 
us" and became thenceforth a stanch and worthy aid. On the 
contrary the elegant, stately Chase, potentially the Cabinet's 
ablest member, not only kept toward his chief an attitude of dis- 

1 A. K. McClure, "Our Presidents and How We Make Them," pp. 125, 128, 131-132. 


dain and mistrust but through jealousy and ambition conde- 
scended to skulking intrigues against him. He actually fostered 
a movement to hold, prior to the regular Republican convention 
of 1864, an independent convention in protest against Lincoln's 
candidacy. Finally Lincoln accepted one of Chase's numerous 
resignations, and then, when old Roger Taney— Taney of the 
Dred Scott case— passed away, returned good for evil by naming 
Chase to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In Carpenter's 
painting "The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation" 
(which hangs above the eastern grand staircase of the Capitol) 
you may see Chase standing with an expression of magisterial 
complacence beside the seated Lincoln. 

When Cameron had been eased from the secretariat of War, 
Lincoln did a characteristic thing in appointing Edwin M. Stan- 
ton, Buchanan's Attorney-General, to the vacant post. Stanton— 
the "Great Energy," as friends sometimes called him— petulant, 
explosive, brusque, incorruptibly honest, prodigious in toil— came 
gradually to an appreciation of Lincoln; and though he never 
ceased to be rude at times ("No one who ever saw Mr. Stanton," 
declared "Bull Run" Russell, "would expect from him courtesy 
of manner or delicacy of feeling" . . .), nevertheless between 
President and Secretary confidence and regard existed. "It is a 
fact"— so we are assured by David H. Bates, manager of the War 
Department's telegraph office—". . . that during the three and a 
quarter years of their close official relations the two men worked 
in almost entire harmony. There never appeared, to the writer's 
observation, any real conflict between them. . . . Each knew 
how far to yield to the other without sacrifice of prerogative." 

"Folks come up here," Lincoln once remarked, "and tell me 
there are a great many men who have all Stanton's excellent 
qualities without his defects. All I have to say is, I haven't met 
'em; I don't know 'em." 

Every office day, from 10 to 11 and from 3 to 4, Stanton gave 
audience. A perpetually irritable look in his stern little eyes, he 
stood at a high writing-desk, leaning his left arm upon it, from 
time to time adjusting his spectacles, and curtly propelling his 
visitors into the world of out-of-doors. He had a brownish beard, 
threaded with gray, and it was a fancy of Lincoln's to accost him 


as "Mars." Though he has been represented as largely deficient 
in a sense of humor, he had— so Dickens himself told James T. 
Fields— a most extraordinary knowledge of Dickens' works, and "a 
power of taking the text up at any point." The "outer crust of 
his harsh manner," David Bates argued, was "very thin"— but it 
was thick enough to incense the many that could not pierce it. 

Lincoln managed his unruly Cabinet with peculiar success, and 
in the prosecution of the war he could rely upon Stanton; but 
neither Stanton nor he had the recipe for making generals out of 
mud, as Napoleon bragged he made marshals. "And oh, there is 
great want of capacity and will among our military leaders"— thus 
mourned the diarizing Welles in August 1862. There had been 
overcast days that tried even Lincoln's enduring soul— days when 
loyal Northern hearts grew weary, when defeatism spread among 
the people, and when Vallandigham the demagogue could clamor, 
"The war is in your hands a most bloody and costly failure." The 
conscription act had been flouted, Copperheadism had flourished, 
and there had been much talk of the Knights of the Golden Circle 
and their successors, the Order of American Knights and the Sons 
of Liberty— secret organizations of ill-defined extent that opposed 
the war, defied the President, and plotted armed uprising. No 
wonder Lincoln had demanded: "Must I shoot a simple-minded 
soldier-boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of a wily 
agitator who induces him to desert?" 

During Federal reverses even avowed Unionists raised violent 
language against the Administration. Service men, exalted with 
rotgut, defamed their commander-in-chief— Doster tells of a 
lieutenant colonel summarily dismissed for disrespectful remarks 
about the President. Well-meaning critics, amateur and profes- 
sional, singly and by platoons, had made nuisances of themselves 
as they eagerly pointed out his shortcomings and sought to in- 
struct him. He had said to one delegation that waited on him: 

Gentlemen, suppose all the property you were worth was in gold, and 
you had put it in the hands of Blondin to carry across the Niagara 2 
river on a rope. Would you shake the cable, or keep shouting out to 

2 Blondin was the professional name of Jean Gravelet (1824-1897), spectacular 
tight-rope performer, who won fame in 1859-1860 by his exhibitions on a rope 
stretched at a height of 160 feet above the falls of the Niagara. 


him: "Blondin, stand up a little straighter — Blondin, stoop a little 
more — go a little faster — lean a little more to the north — lean a little 
more to the south"? . . . The Government are carrying an immense 
weight. Untold treasures are in their hands. They are doing the very 
best they can. Don't badger them. Keep silence and we'll get you safe 

He had been cartooned, lampooned, reviled with a frantic 
malignity. The odious institution of slavery, based on "that cardi- 
nal principle of error that any race is without its human claim" 
and afflictively paradoxical in a so-called "land of the free," had 
diffused its poison through the whole organic structure of Ameri- 
can life. Both the newspaper and periodical press of the North not 
only had indulged in vulgar personalities but had vaunted insolent 
sedition and scandalous treason. 

There had been private unhappiness and grief; unremitting 
contact "with importunity which he could not satisfy, and with 
distress which he could not always relieve"; broken sleep and 
meals eaten abstractedly, meals too scant for the great frame and 
the heavy task— for breakfast, an egg and a cup of coffee; for 
luncheon, a biscuit and a glass of milk. There had been no vaca- 
tion, no holiday, no change from the plaguy Washington summers 
—such reliefs had been for Hay or Nicolay or Stoddard but not 
for "the Ancient." 

Gen. Neal Dow, exchanged for Fitzhugh Lee and released from 
Libby Prison, warned members of the House of Representatives 
that if another candidate were substituted for Lincoln in the 
election of 1 864 the South would naturally look upon such action 
as a repudiation of Lincoln's policy and would feel certain that 
peace, with formal dissolution of the Union, must inevitably fol- 
low. Emerson supposed that never before in history had so much 
been staked upon a popular vote. Yet within Lincoln's own party, 
some— especially Ben Wade of Ohio and Henry Winter Davis of 
Maryland— violently attacked the party's nominee. Davis would 
have much preferred either Wade or Chase, and only reluctantly 
did he abandon hope of Lincoln's withdrawal. 

Nevertheless this "minority President" had been re-elected by 
a huge popular majority, with 212 out of 233 votes in the Elec- 
toral College. The fortunes of war had changed; the struggle was 


in its last phase. The "mighty scourge" was to pass away, the 
burden was to be lifted. Many who, like Garrison, had not under- 
stood Lincoln, had now become his friends. Republicans who had 
informed him that his candidacy was hopeless had been eating 
their words. Confidence in him was returning to honest but 
timorous folk who had wavered. 

On March 20th, 1865, from camp at City Point, at the junction 
of the Appomattox with the James, Grant telegraphed to Lincoln: 

Can you not visit City Point for a day or two? I would like very much 
to see you, and I think the rest would do you good. 

The President accepted, left Washington on the River Queen 
on the 23rd, reached City Point on the evening of the 24th. While 
there he lived aboard the steamer but had headquarters in 
Coloner Bowers' tent, with S. H. Beckwith, Grant's own teleg- 
rapher and cipher operator, to keep him in touch with the 
army and the War Department. He rode Cincinnati, one of 
Grant's two favorite mounts, around the camp and out into the 
neighboring country. 

Though the visit was to be a "rest," Lincoln found much to 
do. Grant was maturing plans for a concerted advance, and Sher- 
man and Admiral Porter traveled from North Carolina for a 
council of war. Both of them were forcibly impressed with Lin- 
coln's desire for mercy to the vanquished. Petersburg fell on April 
2nd and on the next day, having written a dispatch notifying 
Stanton that he was bound for the front, Lincoln rode to a con- 
ference with Grant. His ride back to City Point was the last 
horseback ride he ever took. 

When he got there, a telegram from Stanton was delivered to 
him. "Ought you," challenged the Secretary, "to expose the Nation 
to the consequences of any disaster to yourself in the pursuit of 
a treacherous and dangerous enemy like the rebel army?" In his 
reply, Lincoln said: 

Thanks for your caution; but I have already been to Petersburg, 
staid with Gen. Grant an hour & a half and returned here. It is certain 
now that Richmond is in our hands, and I think I will go there to- 
morrow. I will take care of myself. 


He did go to Richmond, up the James on the River Queen; 
walked with a small escort to the Confederate Mansion; took 
two drives through the city; was joyously hailed by the Negroes; 
suffered no harm whatever, and returned on the 5th. On the 6th 
he telegraphed to Grant, now close upon the heels of Lee's broken 
force, that he would soon have to leave for Washington, as Seward 
had been thrown from his carriage and seriously injured, and 
other matters required attention. 

He insisted upon a tour of the hospitals at City Point, saying 
he would probably never see the boys again and wished them to 
know he appreciated what they had done for their country. 
So he had shaken hands with about 6,000 men— the chief sur- 
geon said the President's arm must surely ache and might be 
lamed. Lincoln, however, stepped outside, took up a heavy ax 
that lay there, chopped busily into a log for a few minutes, then, 
clasping the extreme end of the helve, steadily held the ax hori- 
zontal at the full length of his right arm. Not another man there 
could sustain it in that position. 

On the 8th the River Queen steamed down the James on the 
way home. The next day was Sunday. It seemed peaceful now 
along these waterways, and all was peaceful in the River Queen's 
cabin, for Lincoln guided the talk to Shakespeare. He read aloud 
from "Macbeth." A small party was there to listen— Charles Sum- 
ner and his friend the Marquis de Chambrun, Senator Harlan of 
Iowa and Mrs. Harlan, Mrs. Lincoln. As he read, he came to Mac- 
beth's lines in the second scene of the third act: 

Duncan is in his grave; 
After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well; 
Treason has done his worst: nor steel nor poison, 
Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing 
Can touch him further! 

He read the passage and then, as Sumner called to mind, he 
paused. There was the rhythmic beat of the engines, the ruffling 
of the water— and he went back and read it through again. To 
Harlan's view the President's melancholy air had been yielding 
to an expression of serene joy, as if his life's mission had been 
accomplished. The Marquis would one day ponder strangely 


whether the poetry alone had drawn the reader back ("I think 
nothing equals 'Macbeth,' " Lincoln had written to Hackett) or 
some premonition had faintly stirred within him. 

On the day in i860 when he had been made candidate of his 
party, he had stretched out upon a couch in an upstairs room of 
the house at Springfield. In a mirror— a tilted mirror fixed to a 
bureau— he had distinctly seen two images of himself, one slightly 
paler than the other. Next day he had experimented and, finding 
the effect repeated, decided it could be accounted for by some 
scientific principle unknown to him. But Mrs. Lincoln had been 
troubled, believing it a sign that though he would be re-elected he 
would not live through his second term. 

Such incidents were to be retold and embroidered upon in 
after days. Lincoln was to take on the guise of a prophet— of a 
survival from the ages when mystics beheld portents and visions. 

The River Queen moved on, by points and backwaters, up the 
storied Potomac, bringing the President at the day's end to his 
capital. There Stanton had received from Grant the message: 
"General Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia this 
afternoon on terms proposed by myself." 

Lincoln went across to Seward's house on the east side of 
Lafayette Square. Seward's right arm had been broken close to the 
shoulder joint and his jaw had been fractured in two places. His 
head and neck had been encased in a steel frame intended to hold 
the broken jawbone while it was knitting. This framework, un- 
pleasant though it was to the wearer, became the means of saving 
his life in a manner which a surgeon would never have imagined. 
After words of sympathy and cheer, Lincoln told of his visit to 
Richmond and of Lee's surrender, and with an almost boylike 
delight hailed the advent of peace. It was the last talk between 
the President and his Secretary of State, who once had referred to 
him as "a little Illinois attorney," but who, like Stanton, had 
grown in process of time to a fuller comprehension. 

On Monday morning the town woke to the news of Appomattox. 
Strangers exchanged congratulations, bands began to strike up, 
work in government departments was laid aside, the guns of the 
forts around Washington enveloped it with their booming. 
Crowds formed and, led by a band, went here and there to ask for 


speeches. Hearing a din outside the Executive Mansion, Lincoln 
stepped to an upper window. To cries of "Speech! speech!" he 

My friends, you call for a speech, but I cannot make a speech at this 
time; undue importance might be given to what I would say. ... If 
you will come here to-morrow evening, I will have something to say to 
you. You have a band with you, and there is one piece of music I have 
always liked which heretofore has not seemed proper to make use of in 
the North, but now by virtue of my prerogative as President of the 
United States and commander-in-chief of the army and navy, I declare 
it contraband of war and our lawful prize: I ask the band to play 

Which the band thereupon did, amid noisy cheers. All day people 
roved the uneven brick sidewalks and horsemen trotted through 
the mud. 

Not all Washington rejoiced. Confederate prisoners were there 
in numbers, out on parole. Confederate deserters— and Confed- 
erate desertions had been heavy— were there. Sympathizers with 
the Confederacy were there. "On the day of the taking of Rich- 
mond," wrote the Marquis de Chambrun, "I had seen among 
other things a 'gentleman' purchase a newspaper which contained 
one of the first telegrams announcing the capture of the town, then 
crumple it, and throw it violently to the ground." Byron B. John- 
son, employed in the War Department, lived on H Street, between 
Ninth and Tenth. Across his fence a Negro girl, born a slave and 
working for a family next door, whispered, "Rebel flag in de par- 
lor under de carpet in front." Yet two members of that family 
were clerks in the Treasury Department, even as Louis Weich- 
mann was drawing a salary in the office of the commissary-general 
of prisoners. Doubtless when Early threatened Washington in 
July 1864, many another flag was in readiness to welcome him if 
he got into the city. 

Nevertheless the week beginning April gth was evidently to be 
a week of large festivity. The town was to be illumined grandly 
on the night of the 13th, and on the 14th Anderson would be rais- 
ing the old banner over the Fort Sumter he had been obliged to 
relinquish in 1861. Already, on the night of April 4th, Washing- 
ton had seen the Capitol resplendent with gas-lights innumerable 


to the crown of its new dome, while the eastern portico wore 
upon its stately front a transparency with the words: THIS IS 
But now, on the 13th, all buildings were to be lighted up; and 
meantime there were to be parades and serenades— in that in- 
genuous era the serenade en masse was an American rite of public 
tribute— and what Hay might have called a general hifalute. 

A large throng collected at the Executive Mansion on the night 
of April 11th to hear the promised speech. At a second-floor win- 
dow Lincoln read from manuscript a carefully prepared address. 
It had to do with the question of reconstruction in Louisiana and 
obliquely with the whole problem of reconstruction throughout 
the entire South. He wished to get the Southern commonwealths 
once more into their "proper relation" to the Union. "I believe," 
he said "that it is not only possible, but, in fact, easier, to do this 
without deciding, or even considering, whether these States have 
ever been out of the Union, than with it. Finding themselves 
safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they 
had ever been abroad." 

Thus he urged tact, sufferance. Not everything had gone well in 
Louisiana but a beginning had been made. "Concede that the 
new government of Louisiana is to what it should be as the egg 
is to the fowl, we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg 
than by smashing it." It was a Lincolnian touch; his audience had 
been reckoning upon something like that, and it broke into 
laughter. Details, he went on, could not be worked out by any 
"exclusive and inflexible plan." "In the present situation, as the 
phrase goes, it may be my duty to make some new announcement 
to the people of the South. I am considering and shall not fail 
to act when satisfied that action will be proper." The crowd 
looked up at him as he stood there, a kind of nimbus thrown 
about him from a lamp held beside him as he read; then it scat- 
tered into the night. That announcement was never to be heard, 
nor was Abraham Lincoln ever again to speak in public. 

It seems that Marshal Lamon had from time to time been dis- 
quieted by an inner conviction of some danger approaching 


Lincoln. During the night of November 8th-gth, 1864, after the re- 
turns had shown Lincoln's election, Lamon appeared at the Execu- 
tive Mansion and discussed with Hay the Chief Justiceship; 
favoring Stanton for the post instead of Chase and thinking— as 
did Hay— that Lincoln could not well select an enemy like Chase. 
"He took a glass of whiskey," Hay recorded, "and then, refusing 
my offer of a bed, went out &, rolling himself up in his cloak, 
lay down at the President's door; passing the night in that atti- 
tude of touching and dumb fidelity, with a small arsenal of pistols 
& bowie knives around him." 

Lamon was now away to Richmond on an errand for Lincoln, 
but before going he saw John P. Usher, Secretary of the Interior, 
and asked Usher to induce Lincoln to use greater caution regard- 
ing his personal safety, especially about going out in public while 
Lamon was absent. Lamon and Usher went to call on the Presi- 
dent. "Will you make me a promise?" Lamon asked. Lincoln 
answered carelessly, "I think I can venture to say I will. What is 

"Promise me you will not go out at night while I am gone, 
particularly to the theater." 

But this was too much— Lincoln was not inclined to cede pro- 
prietary rights to the Marshal, and would say no more than, "Well, 
I promise to do the best I can toward it." 

Ever since that night journey through Baltimore he had had 
very definite ideas as to this matter. He had lived safely during 
years of war; had come and gone as his duty had seemed to require; 
had stood under fire on the parapet of Fort Stevens; had walked 
the streets of burning Richmond. If anybody really wishes to kill 
me, he now said to Lamon, "he can do it any day or night if he is 
ready to give his life for mine." 

For several weeks Lamon had been telling Orville Browning 
(an ex-senator from Illinois) that he believed the President would 
be assassinated. "But," Browning wrote, "I had no fear whatever 
that such an event would occur. I thought his life of very great 
importance to the rebels— he was disposed to be very lenient and 
merciful to them and to smooth the way for their return to their 
allegiance. I thought him the best friend they had among those 


in authority and that they were beginning to appreciate the fact, 
and that his life would be dear to them as to us." 3 

On the evening of Tuesday, March 21st, two days before Lin- 
coln started for City Point, John Booth had left Washington on 
the 7:30 express. He went to New York, and on his way back 
stopped over at Baltimore on Saturday the 25th and sent for Ar- 
nold, who was in Hookstown at William Arnold's farm. Before 
Arnold could get to Baltimore by omnibus from the country, 
Booth, having met O'Laughlin, departed for Washington. On 
Monday (the 27th) Arnold wrote to Booth the letter of reproof 
and warning to which reference has previously been made, and in 
the course of the week, at O'Laughlin's request, he accompanied 
O'Laughlin on a day's trip to Washington, returning that eve- 
ning. 4 It was probably then that Samuel Streett, who had known 
O'Laughlin from boyhood, saw him on "the avenue" (that is, 
Pennsylvania Avenue) in talk with John Booth. Arnold took the 
Norfolk boat on the afternoon of April 1st for his job at Old 
Point with Wharton the sutler. O'Laughlin, according to testi- 
mony, was in Baltimore from March 30th to April 12th. 

Though evidently reluctant to break with Booth, Arnold had 
a wholesome respect for Lieutenant Colonel Woolley, General 
Wallace's provost marshal in Baltimore, and for Major Smith, 
the chief of detectives. He wished to go to Old Point and knew 
that everybody going thither from Baltimore had to obtain a pass 
at the office of the provost marshal. Hence it behooved him not to 
get into difficulties with Major Smith's men. His own family was 
uncomfortably inquisitive about his month's absence in Washing- 
ton, and Hookstown people sometimes asked embarrassing ques- 
tions. He was truly minded now to "cut loose forever," as he put 
it, from John Booth's reckless schemes; but in writing to Booth 
he foolishly sought to appease him with "Time more propitious 
will arrive yet" and "ere long I shall be better prepared to again 
be with you": and he signified his readiness to meet John at Bar- 
num's Hotel. 

Davy Herold was at home (the Herolds lived on Eighth Street, 

3 Browning's "Diary" (edited by Pease and Randall), vol. ii, pp. 18-19. Browning 
became Secretary of the Interior in 1866. 

4 Arnold thought this was on Fri., Mar. 31, but P. H. Maulsby, O'Laughlin's 
brother-in-law, testified that O'Laughlin was in Baltimore on that day. 


over near the Navy Yard), collecting rents when they fell due on 
properties the widowed Mrs. Herold owned, or teasing his sisters, 
of whom he had no less than seven. Paine and Atzerodt were 
still hanging about, living pleasantly enough on John's bounty— 
Atzerodt at the Pennsylvania House, Paine at the Herndon; and 
John Surratt had set out for Richmond on March 23rd as escort 
to a Mrs. Slater, who was a Confederate agent of some kind— 
probably a bearer of dispatches. 

Booth was furious at the collapse of his long-fostered design- 
furious with those of his henchmen who now urged discretion, 
and more furious because he knew Arnold was right in counsel- 
ing, "Do not act rashly or in haste." He had denounced Matthews 
to Chester for being frightened and had talked wildly about ruin- 
ing Chester if Chester did not take part. At the meeting of March 
15th he had spoken to Arnold "in a stern, commanding and angry 
voice." "Do you know," he had exclaimed, "you are liable to be 
shot?" Arnold had objected that even if Lincoln were captured, 
the vehicle would be halted by the sentinel at the bridge. "Shoot 
the sentinel!" Booth cried— he seemed exceedingly quick on the 
trigger and quite intolerant of Arnold and O'Laughlin, both of 
whom argued that if an alarm were given at the bridge, the 
game would immediately be up. "You can be the leader of the 
party," Arnold had said, "but not my executioner." 

The Booth who had been so even-tempered, who had been, even 
when in his cups, so wary of entrance to a quarrel, had now grown 
irascible and out of humor. Old friends like Arnold, Matthews, 
or O'Laughlin, lackeys such as Atzerodt or Herold or Paine— he 
was ready to endanger or sacrifice them all, if only he might do 
this marvelous thing— if only he might deliver up as a prisoner to 
the South the man whom he held responsible for the South's 
distress. "You find fault with everything about it," he had snarled 
at O'Laughlin and Arnold when they pointed out defects in his 
strategy. The truth was, no doubt, that he himself was beginning 
to realize that the abduction of a President was a bit more com- 
plex than he had supposed. 

Obviously his strange cavalcade, if it often appeared in force in 
Washington's streets, was bound to attract the unfavorable notice 
of the provost marshal's office. Who could know in advance 


whether Lincoln would or would not be accompanied by a detail 
of the Union Light Guard? The lonely road to the Soldiers' Home, 
beyond the city limits, would be favorable to a surprise, but of 
course Lincoln had not yet moved to his summer quarters. The 
President and Mrs. Lincoln quite often of a Sunday morning 
walked out New York Avenue to attend the Presbyterian Church 
(Doctor Gurley's), but they were accompanied by a guard and 
churchgoers in numbers were abroad at that hour. A guard was 
always on duty at the marine barracks on Eighth Street (east), 
near the Navy Yard, and any commotion in that vicinity would 
quickly rouse an alarm. There were altogether too many guards 
around the Executive Mansion and at the War Department across 
the lawn. 

After all, perhaps Ford's Theatre would be the most likely 
spot: so John may have reasoned. He knew every inch of it and 
its surroundings. Possibly he thought he might count on aid there 
—from Edman Spangler and maybe others. Spangler was a Balti- 
morean; he had done carpenter work on the Booth house at Belair 
and in Baltimore theaters; and when the theater in Washington 
closed for the summer he went to Baltimore on his vacations, 
devoted mainly to crab fishing. "In Baltimore," stated John T. 
Ford, "he was known to be a member of the American Order"— by 
which presumably was meant the Order of American Knights, 
successor to the Knights of the Golden Circle. Himself a gymnast 
weighing 160 pounds, Booth might have reckoned that he and 
the stalwart Paine could truss up Lincoln; not knowing that Lin- 
coln had been New Salem's champion wrestler and could still 
perform feats with axes. 5 

Meanwhile, Lincoln for the time being was not in the city, his 
return was uncertain, and nothing could be done. For economy's 
sake, John began to get rid of his horses. In case he needed horses, 
they were always obtainable in Washington at short notice. He 
was no longer the John Booth of old days, as Mary Ann Booth had 
evidently seen during his latest visit to New York. On March 
28th she wrote him thus: 6 

6 On May 13, 1864, Lincoln in a talk with Hay gave his weight as 180. "Important 
if true" was the comment in Hay's diary, as if Hay did not quite believe it. 
8 From the original in the archives of the Judge Advocate General. 


My dear boy 

I have just got yours. I was very glad to hear from you, & hope you 
will write often. I did part with you sadly — & I still feel sad, very much 
so. June has just left me — he staid as long as he [torn] could. I am now 
quite alone. Rose has not returned yet. I feel miserable enough. I never 
yet doubted your love & devotion to me — in fact I always gave you 
praise for being the fondest of all my boys — but since you leave me to 
grief, I must doubt it. I am no Roman mother I love my dear ones 
before Country or any thing else. Heaven guard you is my Constant 

What had been said? What had she sensed that laid a cloud 
upon her spirit and prompted her to this sorrowful letter with its 
unaccountable foretokening? We cannot know exactly. When 
Edwin once, somewhat provoked, had asked John why he did not 
join the Confederate army, John had answered: "I promised 
mother I would keep out of the quarrel, and I am sorry that I said 
so." Had this old topic risen again, or something like it moved 
John to extravagant avowals? When he had learned that Edwin 
voted for Lincoln in 1864, he had "expressed deep regret" and 
declared his belief that Lincoln would become king of America. 
To Asia he had sung a parody with the words 

In 1865, when Lincoln shall be king — 

and when Asia had objected, "That will never come to pass," he 
had jumped to his feet, shouting, "No, by God's mercy— never 
that!" Had there been another scene of the kind— or was it simply 
that in his general conduct Mary Ann Booth had marked a fran- 
tic and evil humor? 

Charles Wyndham, who knew both men and may have had the 
story from Clarke at first hand, told how, in the early days of the 
war, Booth and John S. Clarke, Booth's brother-in-law, had been 
on a railway journey together and their chat happened to turn to 
some news bulletin from the front. 

John Wilkes made no reply, but sat opposite with a frown on his 
face and drumming on the seat with his fingers. Finally Clarke made 
some disparaging remark about Jefferson Davis. 

As the words were uttered Booth sprang up and hurled himself upon 
Clarke in a wild tempest of fury, catching him by the throat. Other 
passengers tried to interfere, but Booth held his hold, to all appear- 
ances bent upon strangling his brother-in-law. He swung Clarke from 


side to side with maniac strength while his grip tightened. His face was 
drawn and twisted with rage. 

Slowly his anger left him and his hold relaxed, none too soon for 
Clarke. Clarke hardly knew what had happened and looked at his 
assailant in amazement, gasping for breath. Booth stood over him with 
a dramatic gesture. 

"Never, if you value your life," he said, tensely, "never speak in that 
way to me again of a man and a cause I hold sacred." 7 

Clarke, it seems, viewed the matter as the result of a temporary 
derangement. "It was known," Wyndham said, "only to a few 
friends, who recalled it with painful interest a few years later." 
This sinister prepossession, dormant for a time, had been awaken- 
ing to new life during the winter of 1864-1865. It was not sur- 
prising that Mary Ann Booth divined something wrong. John 
Deery did. 

John Deery and Michael Geary then had what was probably 
the finest billiard parlor in Washington. It was on E Street be- 
tween Twelfth and Thirteenth, on the floor above the entrance 
to the National (Grover's) Theatre, and had eleven tables and 
a fully stocked bar. Both of the proprietors were well-known 
tournament players in their day, Deery holding the American 
championship. Booth had been used to dropping in there— not to 
play, for he never lifted a cue, but to watch Deery at practice or 
shooting a match game, or to sample the establishment's brandy. 
Deery, about Booth's age, had come to know him as one who 
never boasted of his career, had none of the "staginess" then fre- 
quent in his profession, kept his own counsel, and was most in- 
gratiating in manner. It now appeared to Deery, in these earliest 
days of spring, that Booth was laboring under a great stress. He 
was drinking much more freely and at times "seemed a bit crazed," 
yet he gave no inkling of the nature of the deep turmoil within 
him. 8 

He was observed, too, at the other end of the avenue. One mor- 
ning in the Senate chamber the chaplain, the Rev. Thomas Bow- 
man (later a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church), was 
about to begin the opening prayer when he became aware of a 
man entering the gallery— a man who was a stranger to him and 

7 New York Herald, June 27, 1909; magazine section, pt. i, p. 2. 

8 Sunday Telegraph (New York), May 23, 1909. 


whom, so far as he could tell, he had never seen before, but whose 
appearance and behavior at once struck him. At other times he 
noticed the same man prowling around the Capitol and the Execu- 
tive Mansion, and was so oddly impressed that he made inquiries 
as to who the person could be. He was told that it must be Booth 
the play actor. Of play actors the Rev. Mr. Bowman, true to the 
Methodist discipline of those days, quite properly knew little; 
but this particular one had affected him most unfavorably and 
awakened in him dim suspicions. On April 10th he called to in- 
form the President, but Lincoln smiled, as four years previously 
he had smiled at Mrs. Lander's story, and said he didn't think 
anybody would attempt his life. 9 

John looked in as usual at the office of Ford's Theatre for his 
mail. The engagement of his friend McCullough had closed on 
March 25th, and on the evening of Sunday the 26th McCullough 
had left Washington. After the winter's pause, the daily news 
was of the Northern grip tightening upon beleaguered Richmond; 
of the doubt whether Lee's army would escape; of Lincoln's visit 
to City Point, where he would be near to Grant's advance upon 
the defenses of Petersburg. 

On April 1st the restive Booth quit Washington for another 
week, and on the subsequent Friday he was in New York with his 
friend Chester at the "House of Lords" tavern on Houston Street, 
where, to Chester's dismay, he broke out with sudden, irrelevant 
thunder about how he could have killed the President on March 
4th. Between the 1st and the 7th, Petersburg and Richmond had 
fallen and Jefferson Davis with his government had departed 
southward; but to minds like Booth's there might still be hope- 
Davis would establish a remote capital, issue a call for fresh troops, 
and fight on. 

John arrived back in Washington on the 8th and took room 228 
at the National. Lincoln, enheartened, was already on his way 
home from City Point to work out his program of reconcilement 
and mercy. In John's mail at Ford's was this letter: 
Dear Friend John: Baltimore, April 2*, '65. 

I have been so devilishly unfortunate as to be drafted the other day, 
and very scarce of funds just at present, (having been put to consider- 

B New York Tribune, Nov. 23, 1903. 


able expense by the death of a brother-in-law in Washington and the 
consequent necessities of his widow and children.) I avail myself of old 
intimacy to ask if you will be willing to play "Richard" for my benefit 
at Front Street Theatre on Saturday afternoon next, provided I can get 
the Theatre. I spoke to Kunkel last night, and he will give me an an- 
swer to-morrow. Necessity, only, John, induces me to make this request. 
Mary wishes to be particularly remembered. I trust you will favor me 
with an early reply, and oblige yours, as ever, in friendship, 

J. H. Young, 

Sun Office. 10 

Friends had always felt they could count on John Booth, and the 
necessitous Young must have been sure that Booth as Richard 
would be a drawing card. But Booth would never again play Rich- 
ard, and he was more desperate than Young could have been; for 
Young would not go to the war— the war was nearly done. 

When from the upper window on the evening of April nth the 
President addressed in words now historic the loyal group that had 
gathered to salute him, he dwelt upon what might be learned 
from the promising experiment in Louisiana, regretting only that 
the people there had not yet seen fit to accede to his wish that the 
franchise be granted to Negroes on the basis of intelligence and 
military service. 

There is a story, one bearing the earmarks of trustworthiness, 
that John Booth and Davy Herold were in the crowd that night. 
Davy cared nothing about political ideas. (One who had known 
him from his birth said: "I have never heard him enter into any 
argument on any subject in the world . . . ; all his conversation 
was light and trifling.") He did not seek to analyze meaning or 
purpose when Booth turned to him in a rage and muttered: 

"That means nigger citizenship. Now, by God, I'll put him 
through!" n 

10 From the original in the archives of the Judge Advocate General. 
"Frederick Stone, counsel for Herold at the Conspiracy Trial, is authority for this. 



ALONG with tidings of imminent peace, spring was coming to 
Washington City. Judas trees and dogwoods were in bloom and a 
reassuring mildness filled the air. A wood fire might still be burn- 
ing in Lincoln's office fireplace, where old-fashioned brass andirons 
and fender were linked with a white marble Victorian mantel. 
Yet gardeners were at work outside, and before many days the 
sojourners in hotel lobbies would be moving to chairs on the side- 
walk, townspeople would be sitting on their doorsteps to take the 
evening breeze, and merrymakers would be going for an outing 
to the Great Falls. 

On April 10th the polished comedienne Laura Keene, at one 
time New York's favorite actress, was opening the second week of 
an engagement at Ford's. With her, supplementing Ford's own 
company, were two capable and seasoned actors, John Dyott and 
Harry Hawk. She appeared on Monday as Miss Hardcastle in "She 
Stoops to Conquer," on Tuesday as Lady Teazle in "The School 
for Scandal," on Wednesday as Martha Savage in "The Workmen 
of Washington" (adapted by Miss Keene from the French, given 
in New York as "The Workingmen of New York, or, The Curse 
of Drink" and advertised as "A great moral sensational drama"). 
The bill for the 13th was "The Story of Peggy, the Actress," with 
Miss Keene as Peg Woffington. 

That morning E. A. Emerson, member of the Ford company, 
was standing, he said, in front of the theater when John Booth 
walked up. Emerson had acted with Booth, was well acquainted 
with him, and said of him, "He was a kind-hearted, genial person, 
and no cleverer gentleman ever lived." John now was evidently in 



a bad temper. He grabbed a cane from Emerson's hand and said: 

"Ned, did you hear what that old scoundrel did the other day?" 

Emerson asked him whom he was talking about, and John flung 

"Why, that old scoundrel, Lincoln. He went into Jeff Davis' 
house in Richmond, sat down and threw his long legs over the arm 
of a chair and squirted tobacco juice all over the place. Somebody 
ought to kill him." (Lincoln did not use tobacco in any form.) 

"For God's sake, John," Emerson interposed, "stop where you 
are! I'm going to quit you." 

At that, John bore down with such force on the cane, which he 
had been holding across his shoulders by its ends, that it snapped 
in four pieces. "I still have that cane," Emerson, then in business 
in Washington, said in 1926. 1 

During the afternoon, Booth looked in at the office of Grover's 
(National) Theatre, where Acting Manager C. D. Hess and the 
prompter were in the thick of reading a manuscript. Although he 
must have seen that they were busy, he entered and took a seat. 
Hess thought this unusual for John, who ordinarily was the pink 
of courtesy and would not do such a thing unless invited. This 
time, however, John not only sat down but insisted on talking. 
His manner seemed "rather peculiar" to Hess, who finally put the 
manuscript away. Booth first spoke of the illumination of the city 
and inquired what the theater would do in that sort, to which the 
manager answered he would make some display that night but 
more on the night following— April 14th marking the anniversary 
of Sumter's fall. 

"Are you going to invite the President?" Booth asked. 

"Yes," replied Hess— "and that reminds me I must send that in- 
vitation." For several days he had been intending to address a note 
to Mrs. Lincoln. 

Stanton issued that day an order proclaiming the end of draft- 
ing and recruiting in loyal states, and further announcing that it 
was the purpose of the War Department to "remove all military 
restrictions upon trade and commerce so far as may be consistent 
with the public safety." At three in the afternoon Grant arrived in 

1 New York Times, Feb. 14, 1926; pt. 2, pp. 1, 3. 


Washington, with Mrs. Grant and his staff, by dispatch boat from 
City Point, and the statement to the press was that he would go to 
Philadelphia with Mrs. Grant "probably to-morrow." 2 He put up 
at Willard's and in the evening visited the War Department in 
company with Stanton to view the doings. "The crowd espied 
him," the Intelligencer said, "and cheered him vociferously." 

The drab building for once was gay. Flags bedecked it from 
top to bottom; at upper windows reflectors extended the beams of 
calcium torches; in the center of a blaze of varicolored lights was 
the flaming word GRANT. 3 On the portico, facing across the lawn 
toward Pennsylvania Avenue, two bands played alternately, and 
an exhibition of fireworks capped what was described as "one of 
the most dazzling scenes of beauty ever witnessed here." 

Bonfires gleamed in the streets. In private residences the small- 
paned windows were filled with lighted candles, which added to 
secular rejoicing a touch of religious festival. The day was, in fact, 
that known in England as Maundy Thursday; the morrow would 
be Good Friday, though Russell, the London Times' correspond- 
ent, had noted that observance was by no means so thoroughgoing 
in Washington as at home. 

Early that evening Booth came into the billiard parlor on E 
Street. With him he brought Davy Herold, whom he introduced to 
John Deery and who seemed to Deery an unintelligent sprig with 
the manner of a valet. "I was rather surprised," Deery owned, "at 
his being in Booth's company." Deery had no idea of the set of odd 
numbers that Booth had been trying to organize. About seven 
o'clock Booth, drawing out some money, asked Deery to let one 
of the table boys go downstairs to the box-office of Grover's 
Theatre and get a box for Friday night. "Aladdin" would be 
given, with Wallack and Davenport. 

"Why do you want to pay for that box?" Deery inquired. "You 
can have it by going to Len Grover." 

"I don't care to accept any favors from the house," Booth replied 
with finality. 

One of the boys went down and presently came back with an 

2 "Personal Memoirs," vol. ii, p. 507. Philadelphia Inquirer, Apr. 14; p. 4. 

3 Intelligencer, Apr. 14; p. 2. 


order for the box specified. Booth and Herold left soon afterward. 
On recent evenings, Deery figured, Booth had been drinking as 
much as a quart of brandy in two hours in Deery's place; but that 
night he did not linger. Where he went is not clear. Washington 
en fete was late in getting to bed, and many persons were up all 
night. On Friday morning, as he was going off duty, Walter Bur- 
ton, clerk at the National, met Davy Herold in the corridor. 

"Going to see Booth?" the clerk asked, and Davy said he was. 

"Well," said Burton, "I don't believe he's in; he didn't come 
to the desk for his key." 

However, the clerk found a maid and told her to open the door 
of room 228 with her pass key. The bed had not been touched. 4 

Good Friday morning was young when Booth penned this letter 
to Mrs. M. A. Booth, 28 East Nineteenth Street, New York: 

April 14 — 2 a. m. 
Dearest Mother — I know you expect a letter from me, and am sure 
you will hardly forgive me. But indeed I have had nothing to write 
about. Everything is dull; that is, has been until last night. Everything 
was bright and splendid. More so in my eyes if it had been a display in 
a nobler cause. But so goes the world. Might makes right. I only drop 
you these few lines to let you know I am well, and to say I have not 
heard from you. Excuse brevity; am in haste. Had one from Rose. With 
best love to you all, I am your affectionate son ever, 

John. 5 

It was rambling, incongruous; the kind of perfunctory thing he 
might have written from the academy at Catonsville on a bygone 
Sunday afternoon— all save that touch of the fury which was driv- 
ing him on. 

New York's Tribune declared expansively in its issue of the 

The path of Peace opens pleasantly before us. There may be thorns 
in the way as we advance, obstacles to be removed, pitfalls and snares to 
be avoided, but we look back to the dread road we have traveled for 
four long and weary and painful years, and the road before us smiles 
only with Summer sunshine. It is natural for man to indulge in hope, 
and hope is not always illusive. 

* Sunday Telegraph (New York), May 23, 1909. A. C. Clark, "Abraham Lincoln in 
the National Capital," p. 95. Sunday Star (Washington), Jan. 24, 1909. 

8 As printed in the New York Tribune, May 1, 1865; p. 4. (Also in the Herald, 
Apr. 30; p. 1, and the World, May 1; p. 8.) 

From a photograph in the McLcllan Collection, Brozim University 


John (left), Edwin (center), and Junius (right) as they appeared at the 
"Booth Benefit for the Shakespeare Statue Fund," November 25th, 1864 


"The fourteenth day of April," wrote Stimmel of the Union Light 
Guard, "was warm, calm and beautiful, an ideal spring day. All 
Nature seemed to bask in the warm sunlight of assured peace." 

About nine o'clock John Booth, with three companions, en- 
tered the barber shop of Booker and Stewart on E Street, where 
Charles Wood "trimmed his hair round and dressed it." When 
John was a lad in Baltimore, Wood had given him haircuts. One 
of Booth's friends now asked Wood whether he had noticed a scar 
on Booth's neck. "Yes," Wood answered. 

"They say that was a boil," the other continued jokingly, "but 
it wasn't a boil— it was a pistol shot." 

Wood, savoring the jest, returned, "He must have got a little 
too far to the front that time." 

"He liked to have lost his head," was the colloquial rejoinder. 

More than two years afterward, Wood "thought" he recognized 
in John Surratt the droll fellow of that April morning, whom he 
had never before seen. The facts seem, however, to be that Sur- 
ratt came back from Richmond provided with gold; was in Wash- 
ington on April 3rd, when he exchanged $40 in gold for $60 in 
greenbacks; and left for Montreal on the morning of the 4th. Evi- 
dence given by four persons located him in Elmira, New York, on 
the 14th. 6 

During the forenoon of April 14th Booth was seen at Grover's 
Theatre by Helen P. Moss, sister-in-law of C. D. Hess, the acting 
manager. It has been surmised that John at this time learned that 
the Lincolns would be unable to attend the evening's performance 
of "Aladdin." Mrs. Mary J. Anderson, a Negro woman living on 
the public alley at the rear of Ford's, testified to having seen Booth 
in the course of the morning "down by the stable." 7 

About 10:30 a messenger from the Executive Mansion arrived 

8 Testimony of Anna E. Surratt and John T. Holahan at the Conspiracy Trial; of 
C. B. Stewart, John Cass, F. H. Atkinson, and Joseph Carroll at the Surratt Trial 
(vol. i, pp. 723-728, vol. ii, pp. 729-738). Surratt in a lecture at Rockville, Maryland 
(1870) said he carried dispatches from Benjamin, Confederate Secretary of State. In 
the interview in the Washington Post (Apr. 3, 1898) he was quoted as stating that 
he had instructions to report on the plans of the barracks at Elmira, and on the 
number of Confederate prisoners housed there. Even Louis Weichmann owned that 
Surratt had gone to Montreal. 

7 Century Magazine, Apr. 1909; pp. 950-953. Mrs. Anderson at the Conspiracy 
Trial, May 16, 1865. 


at Ford's to obtain the "state box" for that night. In this theater 
the upper two boxes on the right of the auditorium (the left of 
the stage) were ordinarily divided by a removable partition that 
could be taken down when Lincoln was to be present, thus making 
one larger box. Reading notices were forthwith sent to the Repub- 
lican and the Star, afternoon papers that would be on the streets 
about two o'clock. Scattered through the advertisements, brief 
items apprised the public that lieut. general grant (the featured 
name) and the President "and lady" would attend the benefit and 
farewell of Miss Laura Keene. To signalize the occasion a new 
patriotic song, "Honor to Our Soldiers" (music by William 
Withers, leader of the orchestra; words by H. B. Phillips, one of 
the Ford "stock"), was to be sung by the Entire Company. 

The bill was to be Tom Taylor's "Our American Cousin." This 
piece, having been first produced by Miss Keene in New York in 
1858, was no longer a novelty. Others had appeared in it in Wash- 
ington—Jefferson in 1861, Kate Denin and Dan Setchell in 1862, 
John S. Clarke in 1864, John T. Raymond (later famed as Colonel 
Sellers) in the same year. 8 During her engagement at the Washing- 
ton Theatre from February 1st to 27th, 1864, Miss Keene herself 
had presented it four times, and it has been said that Lincoln 
attended one of these performances. 9 It was advertised that "she 
alone possesses the original manuscript, all other versions having 
been surreptitiously obtained and having but a faint resemblance 
to the original." There was then no copyright protection worthy 
of the name and piracy was rampant, but Miss Keene's personal 
following, regarding her as the most finished and refined of Eng- 
lish-speaking actresses, still demanded that she keep this authentic 
version in her repertory. Washington City was used to seeing Lin- 
coln at the theater— he had been at Ford's some half-dozen times 
that season— but Grant was in effect a stranger and the people were 
eager for a glimpse of him. Altogether, the theater management 
must have counted on a brilliant and profitable night. 

8 In February 1865 F. S. Chanfrau had appeared at Grover's in Charles Gaylor's 
"Our American Cousin at Home," constructed to take advantage of the popularity of 
Taylor's play. 

Clark, "Abraham Lincoln in the National Capital," p. 95. Clark says on Feb. 9, 
but "The Sea of Ice" was given on that date. "Our American Cousin" was presented 
on the 5th, 6th, 15th, and 27th. 




*K i^^rsr* At the right ' Tenth street Ieads toward e 


About high noon, John T. Ford's brother, H. Clay Ford, treas- 
urer and acting manager, was standing in the theater's main en- 
trance. There were five doorways opening from the street. That on 
the farthest end toward E Street admitted to the stairway leading 
to the family circle; next toward the north and F Street was the 
main entrance; and between these two was the box office, with a 
ticket window on one side for the gallery, on the other for the re- 
mainder of the house, and on the east a small window permitting 
a view of auditorium and stage. At this time of year the main en- 
trance gave the sole access to the lobby, the other three doorways 
being used as exits only; but in warmer weather all doors except 
the one at the north end were left open. 

As Harry Ford looked up Tenth Street, he saw John Booth com- 
ing leisurely down the little slope from F. John paused on the side- 
walk in front of the gallery entrance and began to talk with some 
of the theater's people collected there. One of them— Raybold, the 
upholsterer— went to the office and brought out a letter for him, 
and he read it as he sat in the main doorway, occasionally glancing 
up and laughing as he read. Years later Harry Ford admitted that 
he then told Booth that the President and General Grant would 
be at the theater; and, to tease John, he added that Davis and Lee 
would also be there in another box— and in irons. (Somehow, word 
had got about on the previous day that Lee was actually in the 
city. 10 ) After half an hour or so Booth sauntered on. 11 

At the corner of Tenth and E he was seen by another Ford 
brother— James R., business manager of the theater; and he walked 
the few squares to the livery stable of James W. Pumphrey on C 
Street, in the rear of the National Hotel. There he engaged a 
saddle horse, a bay mare, to be ready at about four o'clock. He ap- 
pears then to have walked down Pennsylvania Avenue to Willard's 
(at Fourteenth). When Mrs. Grant went in to luncheon in the 
hotel's dining room, she was followed by "a man with a wild look," 
who sat down nearly opposite to her at one of the long tables, 
stared at her continually, and seemed to be listening to what she 
said. The General came back to the hotel somewhat after two 

10 Intelligencer, Apr. 14; p. 2. 

11 Testimony of H. C. Ford at the Conspiracy Trial, as printed in the Washington 
Weekly Chronicle, June 10, 1865; p. 4. H. C. Ford's "Reminiscences," Evening Post 
(New York), July 8, 1884. J. T. Ford MSS. 


o'clock and Mrs. Grant told him of her experience. "Oh, I suppose 
he did so merely from curiosity," was the General's answer. 12 

Rumor was that Booth met Thomas B. Florence, editor of the 
Constitutional Union, on Pennsylvania Avenue at some time that 
day and in the course of talk said that he might be going to 
Canada soon, as several Canadian managers were offering engage- 
ments. If such meeting took place, it must have been as John was 
going to Willard's or between that time and about half-past two, 
when he made a brief call at Mrs. Surratt's. 13 

Mrs. Surratt and her boarder Weichmann, who was driving for 
her, were just ready to leave in a hired rig for the two hours' jour- 
ney to Surrattsville, where Mrs. Surratt had some business. Booth 
therefore remained only a few minutes. Not far from three o'clock 
Mrs. Anderson, the Negro woman who had seen him in the morn- 
ing, and a Mrs. Mary Ann Turner, who lived next to Mrs. Ander- 
son on the alley, both noticed John chatting with a lady in the 
doorway of the theater's rear entrance. Rehearsal for that day had 
been shifted from a morning hour to about two in the afternoon, 
and the lady must have been one of the cast. Mrs. Anderson said, 
"I stood in my gate and looked right wishful at him"— thus joining 
the well-nigh universal feminine tribute. 14 

After "a considerable time," John went into the theater. Mem- 
bers of its staff were busily preparing for the evening. Harry Ford 
and Ray bold the upholsterer were ornamenting the "state box" 
with flags. Edman Spangler, who had taken down the movable 
partition, was now on the stage, tinkering with a pair of "flats"— 
large pieces of scenery set in grooves and shoved into place by 
scene shifters. Young William Ferguson was making copies of 
instructions for the stage hands as to changes of scene, lighting 
(controlled from a "gas-box" near the prompter's desk), and 
scenic effects generally. Maddox, the property man, was there too; 
and on seeing John he moved adjournment for a drink. 

"No, thanks," John is reported to have said. "I've a touch of 
pleurisy, and I don't think I'll drink anything." 

"Horace Porter, "Campaigning with Grant," Century Magazine, Oct. 1897; p. 892. 

13 The Sun (New York), Apr. 19, 1865; p. 1. (Special correspondence from Wash- 
ington, dated Apr. 17.) 

"Testimony at the Conspiracy Trial. W. J. Ferguson, "Lincoln's Death," Saturday 
Evening Post, Feb. 12, 1929; p. 42. 


He accompanied Ferguson and Maddox, however, as they went 
out of the stage entrance, through the passage to Tenth Street, 
and into the "Star," Peter Taltavull's adjoining saloon. The stage 
entrance (not to be confused with the back door) was on the O. P. 
(opposite prompter) side— that is, the southern. You went through 
a glass door, down a few steps to an alleyway, and then along a 
corridor to the exit. The corridor was, as a matter of fact, within 
the adjacent building, and resembled a hallway. 

In the saloon, Booth reconsidered and took a glass of ale; and 
when the three were again outside, he said to Maddox, "Have you 
got the key?" Ferguson, who mentions this, thought that Maddox 
either shook his head or answered, "No." 15 It sounded mysterious 
but undoubtedly referred to the key of the stable in the alley. 
"Peanuts" Burroughs had always hung this key on a nail behind 
the theater's back door. Maddox had arranged with Mrs. Davis, 
the owner, for the rental of the stable and had paid her the rent 
money as Booth gave it to him. Booth's driving horse and buggy 
having recently been sold (with the harness) for $260, the stable 
now was vacant; but John intended to use it shortly and wished to 
know where the key was. 

From Taltavull's John walked to James Pumphrey's livery 
stable to get the bay mare he had engaged. He had been used to 
riding a sorrel horse of Pumphrey's but this happened to have 
been taken, so he was going to try out the mare— a small, trim 
animal with black mane and tail. When he asked for a tie-rein, 
Pumphrey told him not to hitch her, as she had a trick of break- 
ing her headstall. John said he would have to tie her if he stopped 
to get a drink, but Pumphrey responded, "Oh, you can find plenty 
of bootblacks about the streets to hold your horse." 

"I'm going to Grover's Theatre," Booth said, "to write a letter. 
There's no necessity of tying her there, for there is a stable in the 
back part of the alley. I'll put her there." He rode out, and Pum- 
phrey never laid eyes on either him or the mare again. 16 

It does not appear that he went to Grover's. James P. Ferguson, 
who kept a saloon on the "upper" or northern side of Ford's, saw 
him and Maddox about this time in front of the theater. They 

15 "Lincoln's Death," ib., p. 44. 

16 Poore, vol. i, pp. 174-175. 


were standing beside Pumphrey's mare, and presently Booth 
mounted, saying (according to Ferguson), "See what a nice horse 
I have— now watch, she can run just like a cat!" With that he put 
spurs to the beast and went dashing toward Pennsylvania Avenue. 
He rode along the avenue in the direction of the Treasury build- 
ing and at the triangular inclosure between Thirteenth and Four- 
teenth he saw John Matthews, out for an afternoon promenade. 
Matthews was to have the part of the unscrupulous agent Richard 
Coyle in the evening's play. 

Booth rode up to the curb and greeted him. Some prisoners had 
just been marched by— Lee's officers, Matthews thought, but Lee's 
officers had, as we know, been allowed by Grant to return home on 
parole. 17 

"Have you seen the prisoners?" Matthews asked. 

"Yes, I have," Booth replied; and then, raising a hand to his 
forehead, broke out with "Great God, I have no longer a country!" 

He had with him "a paper sealed and stamped," and this he now 
requested Matthews to deliver next morning at the office of the 
Intelligencer. Matthews took it, put it in a coat pocket, and, look- 
ing out on the avenue, saw a coach passing rapidly toward the 
Capitol, with Grant visible at a window and luggage piled beside 
the driver. Recognizing the General, he said to Booth: 

"Why, there goes Grant. I thought he was coming to the theater 
this evening with the President." 

"Where?" Booth cried sharply. Matthews pointed, and Booth set 
out at a gallop after the coach. 18 

As the vehicle held its course eastward, a horseman rode by 
in the same direction and peered at the occupants. "That," Mrs. 
Grant said to the General, "is the same man who sat at the lunch- 
eon table near me. I don't like his looks." The coach turned left on 

"Grant, "Personal Memoirs," vol. ii, p. 492. On Apr. 10, from headquarters at 
Winchester, Va., Hancock had issued orders in which it was stated: "All detachments 
and stragglers from the Army of Northern Virginia will, upon complying with the 
above conditions, be paroled and allowed to go to their homes. Those who do not 
so surrender will be brought in as prisoners of war." (See the Intelligencer, Apr. 14, 
p. 2.) 

18 House Report 7, Fortieth Congress, 1st session (Committee on the Judiciary), 
p. 782. Surratt Trial, vol. ii, p. 821. Matthews' letter in the Intelligencer, July 18, 
1867; p. 2. Testimony of John T. Ford, House Report, Fortieth Congress, 1st session, 
P- 533- 


First Street, making for the B. and O. depot at C Street and New 
Jersey Avenue; but before it had reached the depot, the horseman 
headed about, rode back, and gazed intently at those within. 19 

Between five and six, Booth came riding into the alley back of 
Ford's. He hallooed for Spangler, who finally brought out a 
halter rope and led the horse into the stable. John removed the 
saddle, locked the stable door (Maddox, who was also there, hav- 
ing presumably fetched the key), and went into the theater. He 
then invited Maddox, "Peanuts," and Spangler to have a round of 
drinks in Taltavull's place. 20 

It was near five o'clock when William A. Browning, private sec- 
retary to Vice-President Andrew Johnson left the Vice-President's 
room in the Capitol and walked to the Kirkwood House (at Penn- 
sylvania Avenue and Twelfth Street), where both Johnson and he 
lived. In his box— it was 67— at the hotel office he noticed a card, 
and Clerk Robert R. Jones handed it to him. On the card was 

Dont wish to disturb you 
Are you at home? 

J Wilkes Booth 

Browning had met John Booth several times when Booth was play- 
ing in Nashville, Tennessee. "It is from Booth," he said to Jones. 
"Is he playing here?" Browning, as he later stated, had at first 
some idea of going to call on John. At that time he attached no 
importance to the inoffensive-looking bit of pasteboard that was to 
contribute so richly to the Great American Myth. 21 

The grateful spring day was waning into night. At the Kirk- 
wood, the National, and other hotels, guests were beginning to 
think of dinner. By five, Andrew Johnson was at table. Some, 
wearied with days of festivity, would, like him, remain indoors 
and seek a good night's rest. Many would stroll out to have a final 

19 Porter, "Campaigning with Grant," Century Magazine, Oct. 1897; P- 892. 

20 Testimony of "Peanuts" at the Conspiracy Trial. Spangler's statement, "The 
Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd," p. 325. 

21 Browning's statement in the archives of the Judge Advocate General, and his 
testimony at the Conspiracy Trial. 


view of the dingy city radiantly transformed. Others would be at 
the theaters— if they could not get a seat at Ford's, there would be 
the spectacular "Aladdin" at Grover's, where also the popular Ef- 
fie Germon would sing and original patriotic verses by Maj. B. B. 
French would be recited by "a Lady of Washington City." 

At the Executive Mansion the President was just getting back 
from a drive. He had left at about three; as he was coming down- 
stairs had heard the voice of a one-armed soldier: "I would almost 
give my other hand if I could shake that of Abraham Lincoln"; 
and had said, "You shall do that and it shall cost you nothing." He 
and Mrs. Lincoln and Tad were driven to the Navy Yard and went 
on board the Montauk, then lying in the Eastern Branch. She was 
one of those new ironclad steam vessels devised by Theodore 
Timby and John Ericsson and called monitors, odd craft with 
slight freeboard— resembling, to the lay mind, cheese boxes on 
rafts. The Montauk (with a length of 290 feet, a draught of about 
fourteen, and a crew of about 140 men) had been in the engage- 
ment at Fort Fisher, as had the Saugus, anchored near; and both 
showed the marks of combat. 

Escorted by the Montauk' 's officers, the President and Mrs. Lin- 
coln made a thorough inspection of the ship. "Both seemed very 
happy, and so expressed themselves," wrote Dr. George B. Todd, 
the Montauk' s surgeon, "—glad that this war was over, or so near 
its end." . . , 22 In the carriage Lincoln spoke of the happy life that 
might yet be theirs when, his second term over, they could get 
away from Washington (which Mrs. Lincoln always had cordially 
detested) and return to Springfield. 

His had been an active day. He had risen at seven; done a half- 
hour's work in the office, including the dispatching of notes to 
Grant and Seward; and, after breakfasting, had passed the morn- 
ing until eleven in a series of interviews and a visit to the War 
Department. At eleven the Cabinet met, with Seward absent. 
Grant was there, and Lincoln told Grant and the Cabinet to look 
for good news from Sherman. Last night, he said, he had had a 
familiar dream— one he had repeatedly dreamed prior to some im- 

32 From the copy of Todd's letter to his brother Henry, in the collection of the 
Wisconsin State Historical Society. 


portant event, usually a victory. He had dreamed it before Antie- 
tam, Murfreesboro', Gettysburg, Vicksburg. Grant in his blunt, 
matter-of-fact style interposed that Murfreesboro' (Stone River) 
was no victory and really of no special importance; but Lincoln, 
not to be sidetracked, continued that in this instance the dream 
must pertain to Sherman. The dream was, he explained, of a vessel, 
singular and indescribable but always the same, moving very 
rapidly toward a dark and indefinite shore. 23 

(Those interested will find in "George Eliot's Life," by J. W. 
Cross, an example of how stories may in time be altered. An entry 
there given from George Eliot's journal tells of the deep impres- 
sion made by Charles Dickens' version of Lincoln's dream. Dic- 
kens, at a luncheon, said Lincoln informed the Council that 
"something remarkable would happen because he had just dreamt, 
for the third time, a dream which twice before had preceded events 
momentous to the nation. The dream was, that he was in a boat 
on a great river, all alone, and he ended with the words— 'I drift— 
I drift— I drift.' Dickens told this very finely." Did Dickens re- 
ceive the story in that form? If so, where? Did George Eliot ac- 
curately record him?) 24 

After some minor business, discussion veered to the recon- 
struction of the South. Congress, Lincoln observed, was fortu- 
nately adjourned, and the radicals in it could not hamper the 
necessary work of reviving state governments in orderly fashion. 
As for persecuting rebels— there must be "no bloody work." By act 
of Congress, those high in the government or armed forces of the 
Confederacy were liable for treason; but no one need look to him, 
he said, to have a part in hangings and killings. "Frighten them 
out of the country, open the gates, let down the bars, scare them 
off— shoo!" He brandished his arms as if he were driving chickens 
from a garden patch. Then he added that he did not sympathize 
with those who wished to treat as other than fellow-citizens the 
people of states lately in rebellion. "We must," he said, "extinguish 
our resentments if we expect harmony and union." Such was the 
character of his last reported words on this vexed matter. 

23 Carpenter, "Six Months at the White House," p. 292. Gideon Welles' Diary, vol. 
ii, pp. 281-282. 

"Edinburgh edition of 1885, vol. iii, p. 113. 


Grant lingered for a talk with the President. Between his arrival 
on Thursday afternoon and the departure of a messenger from 
the Executive Mansion on Friday morning to reserve the box, the 
General had at some time accepted for Mrs. Grant and himself "a 
verbal invitation" to accompany the President and Mrs. Lincoln 
to Ford's Theatre on Friday evening. But he had already become 
somewhat embarrassed by the heartiness of his acclaim in Wash- 

In March 1864, when he had been formally commissioned lieu- 
tenant general, Mrs. Lincoln had arranged a military dinner in his 
honor, and he had said it would be impossible for him to remain 
—he must leave for Tennessee. "But we can't excuse you," Lin- 
coln said. "It would be 'Hamlet' with Hamlet left out. Twelve 
distinguished officers have been invited to meet you." "I appre- 
ciate the honor Mrs. Lincoln would do me," Grant replied, "but 
time is very precious just now— and really, Mr. President, I believe 
I've had enough of the 'show business!' " That dinner was held, 
the twelve distinguished officers were on hand, but the General 
was elsewhere. 

So now, when the President remarked that the people would be 
delighted to see Grant at the play, this seemed, to the General's 
notion, no inducement whatever. At that point a note from Mrs. 
Grant was brought in and, after reading it, Grant said he must de- 
cide not to remain in Washington Friday night and would start 
with Mrs. Grant for Philadelphia. It was after two o'clock when 
he shook hands with Lincoln and bade him good-by. 

Endeavors have been made to invest Grant's action with a 
semblance of mystery and to convey unjustifiable inferences re- 
garding others. Here we must consult the old precept of cherchez 
la femme. Mrs. Lincoln had accompanied the President to City 
Point in March. She remained there for a week, arrived back in 
Washington on April 1st, and was a second time at City Point from 
the 6th to the 8th. On March 26th and 27th, during visits to the 
Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James, Mrs. Lincoln 
(according to Badeau, Grant's secretary) caused highly unpleasant 
scenes; on the second day, in the presence of officers, she insulted 
both her hostess Mrs. Grant and Mrs. Grant's friend Mrs. Ord, 
wife of Gen. E. O. C. Ord. "I suppose," she raged at Mrs. Grant, 


y£*~^C*&~ S&td-lS' *4&e»*m 


(From Badeau's "Grant in Peace." It is an interesting specimen of 
Mary Lincoln's handwriting.) 

"you think you'll get to the White House yourself, don't you?" 
It was not the first time she had been offensive to Mrs. Grant, of 
whom she once had demanded, "How dare you be seated until I 
invite you?" 

No doubt, too, the General's lady, facing the ordeal of a box 
party with Mrs. Lincoln, was understandably piqued at the fact 
that Mrs. Lincoln had only the day before invited the General to 
drive about the city and view the lights but somehow had alto- 


gether omitted Mrs. Grant. To Mrs. Grant, balanced thus between 
pride and social duty, entered Mrs. Stanton— "as white and cold 
and motionless as marble," Hay wrote of her, "whose rare smiles 
seemed to pain her." On this day she must have been roused. She 
disclosed that the Secretary and herself had likewise been invited, 
and wished to know what Mrs. Grant intended to do. "For unless 
you accept the invitation," she declared, "I shall refuse. I will not 
sit without you in the box with Mrs. Lincoln!" The First Lady 
was not popular in official society, and Mrs. Stanton had told 
Badeau flatly, "I do not visit Mrs. Lincoln." 

It seems that Mrs. Grant then and there determined not to at- 
tend the play. She sent a note to the General, who, prompt for an 
excuse, made up his mind not to go without her. About three 
o'clock Mrs. Stanton was at the War Department, conferring with 
the Secretary, who instructed her to send regrets. He had often 
been asked to the theater by Lincoln, he said, but had consistently 
refused because he thought Mr. Lincoln himself should not go. 
David Bates asserts that Stanton had personally requested Grant 
not to attend— thinking, perhaps, that Lincoln might thus be dis- 
suaded from going. This, so far as we may know it now, is the 
real story of why Grant was not in the box that night. There were 
no mysterious entanglements as sensational writers have hinted; 
but Grant (who, Badeau says, "regarded the feelings of others 
carefully") quite naturally did not unfold to Lincoln the whole 
truth. 25 

Grant's private car was attached to the train leaving Washing- 
ton at 4:30 and arriving at Baltimore at 6:10. Maj. H. B. Smith, 
Gen. Lew Wallace's chief of detectives, was introduced to the 
General aboard the car, which then was standing on Howard 
Street, just north of Camden, waiting to be drawn up Howard and 
along Pratt to the depot of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Bal- 
timore. A train leaving Baltimore at 6:35 was due to arrive in 
Philadelphia at 11. 26 Beckwith, Grant's telegrapher and cipher 
operator, went along. 

35 Porter, "Campaigning with Grant," Century Magazine, Oct. 1897; pp. 891-892. 
Grant, "Personal Memoirs," vol. ii, p. 508. Carpenter, "Six Months at the White 
House," pp. 56-57. Badeau, "Grant in Peace," pp. 356-362. Moorfield Storey, "Dick- 
ens, Stanton, Sumner, and Storey," Atlantic Monthly, Apr. 1930; p. 464. 

20 Time-tables in Intelligencer and in "Appleton's Guide." 


The President had, as usual, taken a scanty luncheon and then 
had gone to his office, where he signed the pardon of a deserter, 
saying, "Well, I think the boy can do us more good above ground 
than under ground." He also gave an order for the release of 
George Vaughn of Missouri, a Confederate prisoner sentenced to 
death as a spy. The drive to the Navy Yard followed. 

As the returning carriage swung up the roadway to the portico, 
two friends from Illinois, Gen. Isham N. Haynie and Governor 
Richard Oglesby, were just leaving the Executive Mansion. Lin- 
coln called them back and they went up to his reception room, 
where he read aloud to them four chapters of Petroleum V. 
Nasby's "Letters," keeping on until dinner was announced at six 
o'clock. Oglesby and Haynie thereupon bade him good evening. 
At the close of the meal, about half-past six, his friend Noah 
Brooks of the Sacramento Union happened in and Lincoln told 
Brooks he had "felt inclined to give up the whole thing" after 
Grant finally decided not to stay for the box party, but Mrs. Lin- 
coln had insisted that the people ought not to be disappointed. 

Before dressing for the theater, the President, attended by Of- 
ficer Crook of the special guard, walked over to the War Depart- 
ment for a brief visit. A cluster of rough-looking, drunken fellows 
was hanging around outside the paling, and Lincoln, so the guard 
recounted, said unexpectedly: 

"Crook, do you know I believe there are men who want to take 
my life?" He paused. "And I have no doubt they will do it," he 
ended in a lower tone. 

He entered the building and went up to Stanton's office. John 
Potts, the War Department's chief clerk, had once purchased, for 
use at the grate fires by which the building was heated, such an 
inferior lot of cast-iron pokers that Major Eckert, chief of the 
Department's telegraph office, broke four or five of them by strik- 
ing them across his left arm. Lincoln, who was present, had said, 
"Mr. Potts, you will have to buy a better quality of iron in future 
if you expect your pokers to stand the test of this young man's 
arm." Now, during these his last moments on this second floor 
where through four trying years he had spent so many hours, he 
quizzed the Secretary: 


"Stanton, do you know that Eckert can break a poker over his 

On the defensive against any of Lincoln's jocularity, Stanton 
parried bluffly with "No. Why do you ask such a question?" 

"Well, Stanton," Lincoln proceeded, "I have seen Eckert break 
five pokers, one after the other, over his arm, and I'm thinking he 
would be the kind of man to go with me this evening. May I take 

Stanton, resolved not to countenance Lincoln's theatergoing, 
answered that Eckert could not be spared. "Well, I'll ask the 
Major myself," said Lincoln easily, "and he can do your work to- 

But Eckert, out of respect for the Secretary and the Secretary's 
views, thanked the President and said the work was urgent. So 
Lincoln and Crook walked back together, Lincoln remarking that 
he did not now care about going out for the evening but would 
not disappoint Mrs. Lincoln and the audience. Crook said that he 
"almost begged" Lincoln not to go, and then asked to be per- 
mitted to remain on duty and serve as guard at the theater, but 
Lincoln responded, "No, Crook, you've had a long, hard day's 
work, and must go home." 

They reached the portico of the Executive Mansion and Lin- 
coln began climbing the steps. "Good-by, Crook"— the guard, set- 
ting out for his home on Rodbird's hill, was positive of the word- 
it was "Good-by, Crook," not the wonted "Good-night," that was 
called from the entrance. 27 

It is strange, but Lincoln had invited many persons that day 
and all, for one reason or another, had declined. Governor Oglesby 
and General Haynie had been asked, but said they must be at Wil- 
lard's for a meeting of the senators and representatives from Il- 
linois. William A. Howard of Detroit (a representative from 1855 
to 1861) had been asked but regretted that he had made all ar- 
rangements to leave Washington that day. William H. Wallace, 

"David Bates, whose book was not published until 1907, stated that Eckert was 
invited during Lincoln's morning visit to the Department. This plainly is an error; 
and Lincoln did not pay an afternoon visit, as Bates made him do in an article in 
the Independent (Apr. 4, 1895). Stanton, too, was mistaken in testifying in 1867 that 
Lincoln's final visit was on.Apr. 12 or 13. His last dispatch was written on Apr. 12. 


governor of Idaho Territory, and Mrs. Wallace had been asked 
but pleaded weariness after a long trip. Robert Lincoln, a captain 
on Grant's staff and just back from the front, was asked but said 
he preferred to "turn in early." At the very last, Miss Clara Harris 
and her fiance, Maj. Henry R. Rathbone, were invited, and they 

Just as Lincoln was ready, about seven-thirty, to start for Ford's, 
two visitors detained him— Schuyler Colfax, Speaker of the House 
(who had called in the morning) and George Ashmun of Massa- 
chusetts, who had been chairman of the Republican convention 
of i860 that named Lincoln as its candidate. During the chat with 
them, Ashmun said that Lincoln's friends had been greatly con- 
cerned for his safety on the occasion of his trip to Richmond. 

"I would have been alarmed myself," Lincoln replied, "if any 
other person had been President and gone there, but I did not 
find any danger whatever." 

Ashmun wished, for himself and a client of his, an interview 
with Lincoln on a matter of business, so the President wrote on a 

Allow Mr Ashmun 

& friend to come in 

at g-AM. to morrow 

April 14, 1865 A. Lincoln 

These were the last words he was ever to write. 28 

To Colfax he said, "You will accompany Mrs. Lincoln and me 
to the theater, I hope?" But Colfax had other engagements— next 
day he was leaving for the Pacific coast. The cards of Senator 
W. M. Stewart of Nevada and Judge Niles Searles were brought 
in, and Lincoln sent a memorandum appointing ten o'clock Satur- 
day morning as the hour when he might be seen. As Mrs. Lincoln 
and he, with Ashmun and Colfax, stepped out under the portico, 
Stewart and Searles were on the flagging below and Isaac N. 

28 The original is in the Lincoln Museum, Washington. 


Arnold, a representative from Illinois, was coming up the walk. 
"Excuse me now," Lincoln said to Arnold from the carriage, and 
to Colfax, "I will telegraph you at San Francisco." Burke, the 
burly Irish coachman, started his team and the carriage rolled 
away toward the residence of Senator Ira T. Harris of New York 
at Fifteenth and H Streets. It was close to a quarter after eight. 29 

John Parker, the special guard, was even now on his way to the 
theater. He was a new man at this job, having been detailed from 
the Metropolitan Police less than two weeks before. Mrs. Lincoln, 
with whom Hay had numerous difficulties regarding household 
management and whom (in a letter to Nicolay) he once described 
as "getting more Hell-cattical day by day," had seen fit to dismiss 
the veteran doorkeeper Edward McManus, and Thomas Pendel, 
one of the original detail of special guards, took McManus' place. 
The vacancy thus made was filled by Parker, whose record was 
such that he ought never to have been assigned to this post. After 
Parker had been repeatedly brought to trial upon sundry com- 
plaints, Superintendent Webb on August 3rd, 1863, charged him 
with general inefficiency, specifying that in a period of about 
eighty-two days Parker had been absent forty-one. Though the 
complaint was dismissed, Officer Parker was warned. On April 
2nd, 1864, he was charged by Sergeant Skippon of the sixth pre- 
cinct with being insubordinate, with using disrespectful language, 
and with gross neglect of duty. He was tried before the Board of 
Metropolitan Police on April 6th, 1864, and judgment was that 
he be dismissed from the force. Nevertheless he was reinstated— 
apparently after Superintendent Richards took office on Decem- 
ber 1st, 1864. 

Pendel inquired of Parker that evening, "John, are you pre- 
pared?"— meaning to find out whether Parker's revolver was in 
order and handy for use. 

"Oh, Tommy, there's no danger," said Alphonso Donn, another 

29 J. W. Starr, "Lincoln's Last Day," "New Light on Lincoln's Last Day," "Further 
Light on Lincoln's Last Day." Brooks, "Washington in Lincoln's Time," pp. 257-258. 
Crook, "Through Five Administrations," pp. 65-67, and "Memories of the White 
House," p. 40. D. H. Bates, "Lincoln in the Telegraph Office," pp. 131, 365-368. 
Carpenter, "Six Months in the White House," pp. 284-287. Affidavit of H. R. Rath- 
bone before Justice A. B. Olin of the Supreme Court of the District (in the archives 
of the Judge Advocate General). 


doorkeeper, who also had come from the Metropolitan Police and 
had been a special guard at the Executive Mansion. 

"You don't know what might happen," Pendel insisted. Then 
he said to Parker: "Now you start down to the theater, to be ready 
for the President when he reaches there. And you see him sale 
inside." Like Crook, he seems to have been distrustful of a green- 
horn on this assignment— especially distrustful, it may be, of John 
Parker, whom he had known as a patrolman on the force. 30 
Parker started at once. 

About seven o'clock John Booth was seen to pass out of the 
National Hotel. At eight he, Lewis Paine, George Atzerodt, and 
in all probability Davy Herold met in the Herndon House, at 
Ninth and F Streets, where Paine had been living while Booth 
paid the bill. It was diagonally across from the Patent Office, in 
the same "square" as the theater, and only a few steps from the 
opening into the alley. 

In the theater the performance had begun— a quarter to eight 
was the regular time for the overture. Tenth Street had been 
alive with the assembling crowd; the house was filled except for 
the boxes; players and audience were in the best of humor. Harry 
Hawk, the Asa Trenchard of the evening, felt that things were 
going smoothly. But glances were directed, we may be certain, at 
the vacant "state box." 31 

Suddenly, about eight-thirty, there was a halt in the action. In 
readiness for this moment, the orchestra, William Withers con- 
ducting, struck up "Hail to the Chief"; the audience rose, waved 
handkerchiefs, applauded, cheered. The President came to the 
front of the box and smilingly acknowledged the cordial welcome. 
The drama was resumed. 32 

The entire cast seemed in the mood, whether it was Ferguson 
the call boy, who at short notice was taking Courtland Hess' small 

30 Pendel, "Thirty-six Years in the White House," pp. 37-40. Records of the Board 
of Metropolitan Police. 

31 Testimony of G. W. Bunker, Surratt Trial, vol. i, p. 329. Atzerodt's statement 
read before the Commission at the Conspiracy Trial. Doster, "Lincoln and Episodes 
of the Civil War," p. 269. Boston Herald, Apr. 11, 1897; P- 2 ^- 

32 Testimony of H. R. Rathbone at the Conspiracy Trial. Statement of William 
Withers in the Lincoln Museum. Interview with Mrs. J. B. Wright, Boston Globe, 
Apr. 11, 1915. Statement of Harry Hawk, Boston Herald, Apr. 11, 1897. 


part of Harry Vernon, or E. A. Emerson, for the first time in the 
character of Lord Dundreary; or Miss Keene, who, on the author- 
ity of the long strip of playbill, had enacted Florence Trenchard 
"upwards of iW ONE THOUSAND NIGHTS "^fi." Grant's 
absence could not mar an occasion when all else was so warmly 
en rapport. At the comic passages there were gusts of laughter. 

Eight • . • . • 


WHEN Burke the coachman reined in his horses before the 
theater at about eight-thirty, Charles Forbes, a personal attendant 
who served as footman, swung down to open the carriage door. A 
wooden platform or horse block stood at the curb, and the party, 
having alighted upon this, was convoyed through the main en- 
trance by Forbes and the special guard John Parker. Burke drove 
forward some ten or fifteen paces toward F Street, then leaning 
back, elbow resting on the carriage roof, drowsed there, largely 
oblivious to what chanced around him. 

To reach the "state box," the party, with Forbes and Parker, 
traversed the lobby to its northern end, where there was a stair- 
case to the dress circle; then climbed the stair and, preceded by 
the usher, James O'Brien, crossed behind the seats of the dress 
circle to the opposite side of the house. Descending the steps of 
the dress circle, they came to a door that opened inward upon a 
small vestibule, about four feet in width by perhaps eight in 
length. They could not see behind that door a mortise cut roughly 
in the wall nor, lying near, a wooden bar about two inches square 
and four feet long. 

On the left-hand side of this vestibule was the closed door of 
box 7; at the vestibule's end the door of box 8 stood open. By that 
farther door the party entered. Small wonder that in the door to 
box 7, in the angle of a panel, they did not notice a hole a quarter 
of an inch in diameter, looking as if made with a gimlet and 
reamed with a pocket knife. Removal of the partition (which was 
an inch thick and about seven feet high) had thrown the two 
boxes into one box of irregular shape and with a frontage of be- 



tween ten and twelve feet. A pillar rising from the balustrade 
divided the face of the box into two lofty arches from which hung 
draperies of buff satin and curtains of Nottingham lace. The walls 
were covered with dark, figured paper; the floor was laid with 
Turkey carpet. In front was suspended what one newspaper styled 
"a chaste chandelier." x 

This theater of Ford's was no shabby relic, with an atmosphere 
heavily compounded of illuminating gas, paint, and the effluvium 
of audiences long gone. It was less than two years old, embodied 
the latest ideas in construction and equipment, and was said to 
possess "all the acoustic and optical advantages of an Academy of 
Music." Orchestra, parquet circle, and spacious dress circle (first 
balcony), rising by gradual incline, were provided with cane- 
bottomed chairs secured to the floor. The parquet circle in 
theaters of the period was back of the orchestra and under the 
dress circle. Its name was often shortened to parquet, which origi- 
nally had been a synonym for pit or orchestra. 2 

In February 1864 a "lounging room" connected with the dress 
circle had been advertised for use "in the pauses of the entertain- 
ment." This room, "richly furnished" and with "all the con- 
veniences and appliances of a modern Drawing Room," was added 
by cutting through from the dress circle to the second floor of the 
three-story brick building on the south. The ground floor was oc- 
cupied by Taltavull; Harry Ford and his brother James had rooms 
on the third. Joining the stage on the north was a four-story build- 
ing containing dressing rooms, greenroom, and workshops. 

The auditorium ordinarily seated 1,700 but its capacity, in a 
day innocent of fire laws, could be swelled to 2,300 or possibly 
even the advertised 2,500. James J. Gifford, who was now on its 
staff as stage carpenter, was the theater's architect and builder. 
During construction he encountered a quicksand in the Washing- 
ton soil, but the walls, from eighteen inches to two feet in thick- 
ness, were pushed down to solid ground and the building was con- 
sidered amply safe. 

1 Testimony of J. J. Gifford, Surratt Trial, vol. i, p. 326. Philadelphia Inquirer, 
Apr. 17, 1865; p. 1. 

2 Prices at Ford's on Apr. 14 were: orchestra, $1; parquet circle and dress circle, 
75 cents; family circle, 25 cents; boxes, $6 and $10. 




Tenth Stmt 



(After a sketch in the John T. Ford Papers) 

a. Building adjoining theater on south (Taltavull's) — b. Entrance to 
corridor, leading to footway and thus up steps to stage door,g — f. 
Outside stairs — c. Office, and stairs to family circle — d. Lobby — e. Stair- 
way to dress circle — h. Musicians — k. Stage — ii. First-tier boxes — mm. 
Scenes — n. Building adjoining theater on north (dressing rooms, green- 
room) — r. Passageway — s. Rear door (stairs at left, leading below stage) 
— t. Large door (for bringing in scenery, etc.) — u. Public alley. 


This night the furniture of the "state box" consisted of a sofa, 
an armchair on casters, a number of side chairs, and a weighty 
rocking chair. The rocking chair (belonging to a set with some 
of the other pieces) was kept in Harry Ford's room and sometimes 
brought down for the President's use. Harry Ford thought it "a 
very nice chair." It was of black walnut, and seat, arms, and back 
were upholstered in red damask. The rockers fitted into the corner 
at the left-hand end of the balustrade (the end toward the audi- 
ence), so the chair always was placed there. Lincoln now took it. 3 

Mrs. Lincoln was seated at his right, between him and the pillar; 
Miss Harris at the other end of the balustrade; Major Rathbone 
at Miss Harris' left, on the sofa against the wall. Rathbone figured 
a distance of about eight feet between the President and himself, 
and of about five feet between the President and the door by which 
the party had entered from the little vestibule. The height of the 
box above the stage, including the balustrade, he loosely reckoned 
as "about ten or twelve feet." (In the afternoon Edman Spangler 
had handed up a hammer from the stage to Harry Ford, who was 
in the box, arranging flags to ornament it.) 4 

Two United States flags were thrown across the balustrade; at 
either side of the box a fringed United States flag hung from a 
staff; and in the center, fixed to the pillar, the regimental colors of 
the Treasury Guard— white spread eagle and stars on a blue 
ground— drooped above a framed portrait of Washington. The 
Treasury Guard was composed of employees of the Treasury De- 
partment and the colors had been lent for the evening. Sur- 
rounded by these impromptu adornments and by the lofty dra- 
peries, the four persons in the box sat almost engulfed in shadows. 

Ladies differed as to Mrs. Lincoln's costume. "A new spring silk 
dress, light gray in color and with a black pinhead check, and bon- 
net to match"— so said Helen Truman, who that night played 
Augusta. "A black velvet cloak edged with ermine, a black velvet 
bonnet trimmed with white satin," said Mrs. J. B. Wright, the 

3 Stanton transferred this chair to O. H. Browning, Secretary of the Interior, for 
safekeeping in that department. For years in the Smithsonian Institution, it was 
reclaimed by Mrs. H. C. Ford (Blanche Chapman) and sold to Henry Ford, who 
placed it in the museum of the Edison Memorial Institute at Dearborn, Mich. 

4 Rathbone's affidavit before Justice Olin, Apr. 17. Testimony of H. C. Ford and 
J. P. Ferguson at the Conspiracy Trial. 


stage manager's wife, who, with Dr. and Mrs. Charles Taft, sat in 
the fourth row of the orchestra across from the box. (She added 
that both Mrs. Lincoln and Miss Harris kept on their bonnets 
and wraps.) 5 In any case the First Lady did not wear an evening 
gown with a headdress of artificial flowers, as ordinarily she did 
and as we may see her in Kate Helm's portrait of her. 

For Miss Julia Chapman, a visitor in Washington, the flags hid 
all but the "young and lovely" Miss Harris. Miss Harris' fiance, 
Maj. Henry R. Rathbone, U. S. A., was likewise her stepbrother 
and they lived under the same roof— that of Ira Harris, who had 
taken Seward's place as senator from New York. Rathbone was 
a slight, smallish man with thick "Burnsides" akin to the whiskers 
affected by Dundreary in the play. 

Although (as Helen Truman said) "the attendance was the best 
of the season and the house was packed to the walls," nevertheless 
it happened, as it had on previous occasions (though not fre- 
quently), that no other box was taken. Boxes had usually been in 
demand in Washington. John T. Ford said a box "is not a favor- 
able place to see a performance, but it is a fashionable place here 
to which to take company." Yet on April 14th the remaining six 
boxes were vacant, and this fact was to be caught up into the tex- 
ture of myth that would be ever more thickly spun around the 
events of that night. 

Conductor Withers was expecting that his specially composed 
"Honor to Our Soldiers," with soli and chorus, would be sung 
between the first and second acts, but Stage Manager Wright in- 
formed him through the speaking tube that it must be postponed 
until the next intermission. Withers was considerably annoyed. 
He had been jilted that day and already was laboring under a 
sense of injustice. 6 

The curtain rose upon the second act, bringing Asa to snicker 
at Mrs. Mountchessington's idea that bison are hunted on the 
prairies of Vermont, Dundreary to mourn the loss of his hair-dye 
and ask such riddles as "Why does a duck go under water?" and 
"Why does a duck come out of the water?" Scene two revealed a 

8 New York World, Feb. 17, 1924; p. 8. Boston Globe, Apr. 11, 1915. 
•Toledo Times, Feb. 12, 1911. 


deep set— the picturesque dairy of Trenchard Manor and a bit of 
garden, with Mary Meredith 7 (Jennie Gourlay) presiding there 
and Asa interested "to see how they make cheese in this darned 
country." Presently Dundreary (E. A. Emerson) and the delicate 
Georgina (Miss M. Hart) entered. Dundreary placed Georgina on 
a rustic bench and Georgina murmured, "Thank you, my lord; 
you are so kind to me, and I am so delicate." 

Dun Now let me administer to your wants. How would you like a 
roast chestnut? 

Geo No, my lord, I'm too delicate. 

Dun Well, then, a peanut; there is a great deal of nourishment in 

Geo No, thank you. 

Dun Then what can I do for you? 

Geo If you please, ask the dairymaid to let me have a seat in the 
dairy. I am afraid of the draft here. 

Dundreary's wartime retort had been: 

Oh, you want to get out of the draft, do you? Well, you're not the 
only one that wants to escape the draft — 

that or something like it. But now the line was: 

You are mistaken. The draft has already been stopped by order of 
the President! 

At this, Julia Chapman said, the applause was "long and loud." It 
was an impulsive expression of relief that the long stress was over 
—a friendly greeting to the man in the box, who had fought a good 
fight and kept the faith. 8 

With the descending curtain, Stage Manager Wright notified 
Conductor Withers that "Honor to Our Soldiers" must again be 
deferred, and Withers "became somewhat exercised." 

While this scene had been on, John Booth had led the bay mare 
by the bridle-rein up the alley to the rear door of the theater. J. L. 
DeBonay, "responsible utility," who was playing the servant John 
Wickens, 9 happened to be standing near the door. After dialogue 

1 The name was erroneously given on the playbill as Mary Trenchard. 

8 Lamon, "Recollections," p. 282. (Lamon has it that E. A. Sothern was the Dun- 
dreary.) Chapman letter (Apr. 16), Century Magazine, Apr. 1909; pp. 917-918. 

9 The playbill has Whicker and Pitman gives Wigger. 


with Mary Meredith, he had quitted the scene by passing behind 
the garden fence and out at the third entrance on the right of the 
stage. The narrow passage in which he was standing ran between 
the scenes and the wall, and extended from the first entrance, past 
the door leading to greenroom and dressing rooms, and straight 
back to the alley door at the rear. As it averaged only about three 
feet in width, orders were to keep it scrupulously clear for ready 
access to the stage. Even then it must have been a tight squeeze for 
actresses in the bulging skirts of the period, such as were worn in 
"Our American Cousin." There was a similar passage on the O. P. 
side, but less care was taken of it because decidedly fewer entrances 
were made from the left. On the left also were stairs to the paint 
loft and the "flies." 

Booth said to DeBonay, with the air of a privileged character, 
"Tell Spangler to come to the door and hold my horse." Spangler 
was at his post on the opposite side, ready for his work of shifting 
or for any emergency. Two scene shifters were on each side and 
their continuous presence was required by the stage carpenter who 
directed them. Opening behind the rear door, a covered stairway 
led to the region below stage. DeBonay went down these stairs, 
crossed under the stage to the O. P. side, and told Spangler, "Mr. 
Booth wants you to hold his horse." Spangler left his post, came 
to the rear door, and, explaining that he could not stay, took the 
rein. Apparently confident that Spangler would get somebody to 
care for the horse, Booth passed inside. 

He asked DeBonay whether it was possible to cut across to the 
stage entrance, and DeBonay answered that the dairy scene was 
now on, taking in the deep stage. Booth descended the stairs and 
Spangler called to DeBonay, "Tell 'Peanuts' to come here and hold 
this horse. I haven't time." "Peanuts" Burroughs distributed hand- 
bills for the theater and was stage doorkeeper. He was now sitting 
at his door, right by the first entrance on the left. DeBonay fol- 
lowed Booth under the stage and up on the other side; Booth then 
going out of the stage entrance, through the alley, and into Talta- 
vull's saloon, while DeBonay, after delivering Spangler's message 
to "Peanuts," went by the alleyway to the sidewalk in front of the 

"Peanuts" crossed under and argued with Spangler about hold- 


ing Booth's horse. "He told me to hold it," "Peanuts" said later, 
"and if there was anything wrong to lay the blame on him; so I 
held the horse." John Booth, in his suasive fashion, had already in- 
terfered with the peaceful routine of Ford's, and Edman Spangler, 
stagehand and crab fisher, would rue this night and his compliant 
but unsuspecting part in it. "Peanuts," sprawled on a carpenter's 
bench that stood in the alley, held the mare and perhaps thought 
of the tip that Mr. Booth would give him. Mr. Booth was in Tal- 
tavull's, where he had called for whisky instead of the customary 
brandy. He then asked for a "chaser" of water and laid his money 
on the bar. 

The curtain fell upon the long dairy scene, and the act was over. 
Louis Carland, the theater's costumer, was on the O. P. side, where 
he saw Gifford, the stage carpenter, talking to Spangler, and pres- 
ently Conductor Withers and John Dyott (the Abel Murcott of 
the evening) strolled up and asked Gifford and Carland to join 
them in a drink. As they went into Taltavull's place, Booth was 
going out. In less than two hours the purlieus of Ford's would ap- 
pear to have seen a flood of miscellaneous tippling. 

Coachman Burke was roused from his dozing by "two of my 
friends," who suggested that he have a glass of ale with them. He 
thought this was at the close of the first act. Leaving "a man" (a 
stranger, presumably) to care for the horses, he was gone for as 
much as ten minutes by his own count— no doubt longer. Return- 
ing, he took his place on the driver's box, but where his friends 
were is not shown. With astonishment we learn from Burke that 
they were the "special police officer and the footman of the Presi- 
dent"— John Parker and Charles Forbes. Both of them, therefore, 
were absent from their posts during an intermission, when it 
would seem that their presence was specially needed, and both 
were drinking while on duty. 10 

"Our American Cousin" had another act, with seven scenes. We 
do not know what Lincoln thought of the play. To Harry Hawk 
it looked from the stage as if "Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln enjoyed it so 

10 Testimony at the Conspiracy Trial. Spangler's statement, "The Life of Dr. 
Samuel A. Mudd," p. 325. Testimony of L. J. Carland and F. P. Burke, Surratt Trial, 
vol. i, p. 571; vol. ii, p. 792. Burke's statement in the archives of the Judge Advocate 


much." Dr. Charles Taft, army surgeon, writing of what he had 
glimpsed from his seat in the orchestra's fourth row, said that 
Mrs. Lincoln often called the President's attention to this or that 
upon the stage and "seemed to take great pleasure in witnessing his 
enjoyment." On the other hand, Thomas H. Sherman, at one time 
secretary to James G. Blaine, declared Lincoln was "so shielded 
by draperies he could be seen from the floor only when he leaned 
forward." n Helen Truman said she had always noticed that, 
whereas Mrs. Lincoln applauded a performance by hand-clapping, 
Lincoln did not, though he would laugh heartily on occasion. 

This work of Taylor's has survived in a few old prompt books 
and a wretchedly printed version from battered plates dated 1869. 
Walt Whitman— who was not at Ford's that April night (though it 
has been stated that he was) but may have seen the play elsewhere— 
wrote of it as "A piece ... in which, among other characters, so 
call'd, a Yankee, certainly such a one as was never seen, or the least 
like it ever seen, in North America, is introduced in England, with 
a varied fol-de-rol of talk, plot, scenery, and such phantasmagoria 
as goes to make up a modern popular drama." . . . 12 Since Whit- 
man, others have made disparaging remarks about it, judging it 
by its literary quality. 

It was originally written for Joshua Silsbee, American comedian 
popular in London, but was not used by him. The allegedly im- 
possible Yankee plainly derives from sources as reputable as Dick- 
ens' "Martin Chuzzlewit" and "American Notes," but such in- 
gratiating touches were added that he was as much to the taste of 
American audiences then as "The Man from Home" was later. 
Not he, however, but Lord Dundreary, prototype of all "silly ass" 
stage Englishmen, gave "Our American Cousin" its vogue in the 
United States. Under the name "Lord Dundreary" it was revived 
by E. H. Sothern at the Lyric Theatre, New York, January 27th, 
1908, and had a successful run. Perhaps Lincoln, with his wartime 
experience of Britain's governing class in the persons of Lord 
Lyons, Lord Robert Cecil, and Lord John Russell, found amuse- 
ment in this satire by an editor of Punch. 

11 See their accounts in the Century Magazine, Feb. 1893, an d the World (New 
York), Feb. 12, 1926. 

13 Bucke, Harned, and Traubel (eds.), "The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman," 
vol. ii of Prose Works, p. 248. 


But Lincoln's mind, as Gamaliel Bradford felt, "was rather on 
the coming dreamy years than on the play." We will go to Europe, 
he said to Mrs. Lincoln, go to the Holy Land— to the city I always 
have wished to see, Jerusalem. It was a supplement to his talk in 
the carriage on the afternoon's drive. He got up once and put on 
his overcoat, as if he felt a chill air blown across him. 13 

John Booth had been in and out of the lobby several times. He 
had come up to Buckingham, the doorkeeper, and asked, "What 
time o' night is it?" Buckingham told him to step in where he 
could see the clock. A little while afterward he crossed the lobby, 
entered the house, scanned the audience for a moment, and went 
outside again. In a short time he returned, looked in at the box- 
office window, then put an arm through and laid on a shelf there 
a partly smoked cigar. To Harry Ford, who was in the office, he 
said in mock-heroic style: 

Who'er this se'gar dares displace 
Must meet Wilkes Booth face to face. 

Harry recognized this as an extempore parody of lines in W. B. 
Rhodes' burlesque "Bombastes Furioso," which had held the stage 
for a half-century. General Bombastes hung his boots on a tree and 
affixed to them a scrap of paper bearing the words: 

Who dares this pair of boots displace 
Must meet Bombastes face to face. 
Thus do I challenge all the human race. 

John Booth did not complete the tristich, but his was a defiance 
as inclusive as Bombastes' and equally reckless. Buckingham 
mechanically extended a hand for a ticket, and John took the hand 
by two fingers. "You don't want a ticket, Buck," he said, and 
passed on up the stairway to the dress circle, humming a tune. 14 

The curtain had risen upon the first scene of the third act, with 
the dairy set retained. Action on the stage neared the crux of the 
drama, Asa's burning of old Mark Trenchard's will. Asa was the 

""The Wife of Abraham Lincoln," Harper's Magazine, Sept. 1925; pp. 496-497. 
Rathbone's affidavit. 

14 Buckingham, "Reminiscences and Souvenirs," p. 13. New York Evening Post, 
July 8, 1884 (interview with Harry Ford, from the Washington Star). Personal state- 
ment by Blanche Chapman (Mrs. H. C. Ford) to the present writer. 


legatee and Mary Meredith came into £80,000 when he destroyed 
the will. Mary (Jennie Gourlay) and Asa sat vis-a-vis on a bench at 
right center, and Asa, having thrown away the stick he was whit- 
tling, brought the dialogue round to old Mark and entered on 
the longest speech in the play. Most of the audience was listening 
raptly as Asa said, "Will you excuse my lighting a cigar?" and con- 

"Give me the light," says he. Wal, I gave him the candle that stood 
by his bedside, and he took the sheet of paper I was telling you of, just 
as I might take this. [Takes will from pocket.] And he twisted it up as 
I might this. [Lights will.] And he lights it just this way, and he 
watches it burn slowly and slowly away. 

Sitting there on the bench, Jennie Gourlay raised her eyes to 
the dress circle and in the glow of the dimmed house-lights saw 
John Booth. He was at the end of the foyer behind the dress circle, 
on her left as she looked diagonally across from the stage. It was 
not surprising to see him there— he had the freedom of the house, 
but Jennie Gourlay was "shocked at his pallor and a wild look 
in his eyes." He must be ill, she thought. 15 

In the passage back of the dress circle, not far from the door of 
the vestibule to the "state box," were Lieut. A. M. S. Crawford of 
the Veteran Reserve Corps and his friend Capt. Theodore Mc- 
Gowan, assistant adjutant-general to Gen. Christopher C. Augur, 
commanding the military department of Washington. Having 
come in just after the President arrived and having viewed the 
box from the dress circle's left side, they had moved over to the 
right side and, like others, had taken extra chairs there provided 
for those who had been unable to get regular seats. 

In the early part of the third act's first scene, a gentleman had 
passed them. He was inquiring for Charles Forbes, the attendant 
and footman, whose appearance was familiar to Washingtonians 
generally and who was sometimes referred to as "the President's 
messenger." Forbes was in seat 300, the one nearest to the vestibule 
door, and somebody pointed him out. The gentleman handed 
Forbes an official-looking envelope and left the theater. He was 
S. P. Hanscom, editor of the Daily National Republican, who said 

15 Minneapolis Journal, Apr. 27, 1914. 


he had been asked at the Executive Mansion to give the "dispatch" 
to the President. A scene being on, he delivered the envelope to 
Forbes instead. 

Now another intruder appeared, and McGowan and Crawford 
were again broken in upon. This man, Crawford said, had black 
hair, black mustache, dusky eyes, and was wearing a dark felt hat. 
Crawford at first thought him to be drunk, but quickly noted a 
peculiar "glare in his eye." The man picked his way by and stepped 
down one step. There he paused, surveying audience and stage. 
The scene had changed and the stage had been "closed in" with 
flats to show a room in Trenchard Manor. The interval from the 
scene to the middle of the footlights was about twenty feet. In the 
center of the back wall was a doorway hung with portieres, behind 
which was a set piece to mask the opening. Mrs. Mountchessington 
(known to Asa as the "old gal"), Miss Augusta Mountchessington 
(out for Asa's money), and Asa (now without a fortune) were on 
the scene. 

The dark man stood looking. Then he took from a pocket what 
seemed to be a number of visiting cards and with rather punc- 
tilious care selected one. He stepped down the next step of the 
aisle, which brought him to the right side of Charles Forbes, and, 
bending over Forbes, held out the card. What was on that card? 
Was the card taken into the box by Forbes, or did Forbes on his 
own responsibility give the dark man permission to enter the box? 
We shall probably never know for sure the answers to these ques- 
tions. The attention of both Crawford and McGowan was diverted 
to the stage. When next they turned to glance at the dark man, 
they saw him entering the vestibule, whose door he closed behind 
him. 16 

Laura Keene, with young W. J. Ferguson, was waiting in the 
first right-hand entrance. She had been gratified at the smooth per- 
formance because in the audience were not only the President and 
Mrs. Lincoln but also friends of John Lutz, Miss Keene's manager 
and second husband. On the other side, DeBonay, having returned 
from the front of the theater, was leaning against the flat, waiting 

18 McGowan's account, New York Tribune, Apr. 17, 1865, Commercial Advertiser 
(New York) and Philadelphia Inquirer of that date. Crawford's statement in the 
Tanner Papers, Union League Club, Philadelphia. 


for the curtain to fall on that scene. In the third entrance on the 
right, Miss Jennie Gourlay was talking with Conductor Withers. 
Miss Gourlay was the leading lady of the Ford stock company and 
the following night was to be her benefit night, with "The Octo- 
roon" as the attraction. Withers had just learned from Stage 
Manager Wright, in the second entrance, that "Honor to Our 
Soldiers" would be rendered at the close of the performance and 
was on his way to the orchestra pit via the passage under the stage. 
Edman Spangler was immediately in back of the doorway in the 
scenery. 17 

James P. Ferguson (restaurant keeper on the "upper" side of 
Ford's), who was in the front of the dress circle opposite the "state 
box," said Lincoln "was leaning his hand on the rail, and was 
looking down at a person in the orchestra,— not looking on the 
stage. He had the flag that decorated the box [at his left] pulled 
around, and was looking between the post and the flag." The flag 
hung at such an angle that it would have partly obscured his view. 
According to Ferguson, General Burnside took an orchestra seat 
about this time; and Ferguson surmised that it was Burnside at 
whom Lincoln was gazing. Mrs. Wright, the stage manager's wife 
(fourth row in the orchestra), said that the President was "leaning 
slightly forward, with his arm on the cushioned edge of the box, 
his chin resting in his hand," and was "looking into space as if in 
deep thought." 18 

The brave old Flag drooped o'er him, 
(A fold in the hard hand lay,) — 
He looked, perchance, on the play, — 

But the scene was a shadow before him, 
For his thoughts were far away. 

(H. H. Brownell) 

17 Minneapolis Journal, Apr. 27, 1914. New York Tribune, Feb. 6, 1916. Clark, 
"Abraham Lincoln in the National Capital," pp. 107-108. New York Times, Apr. 18, 
1915. Saturday Evening Post, Feb. 12, 1929. Testimony of DeBonay and Withers at 
the Conspiracy Trial, of Raybold at the Surratt Trial. Spangler in "The Life of Dr. 
Samuel A. Mudd," pp. 325-326. 

"Poore, vol. i, pp. 190-191. Surratt Trial, vol. i, pp. 129-131. Dorchester (Mass.) 

Beacon, Apr. 11, 1896 Burnside was reported as making an address in Nassau 

Street, New York, at three o'clock the following afternoon, which would raise a 
question as to Ferguson's accuracy in this particular. 


On the stage, Mrs. Mountchessington (Mrs. Muzzy) said to 
Augusta (Helen Truman), "Augusta, dear, to your room." 

Aug Yes, ma. The nasty beast! [Exit 

Mrs M I am aware, Mr. Trenchard, you are not used to the manners 
of good society, and that alone will excuse the impertinence of which 
you have been guilty. [Exit 

Asa (Harry Hawk) was the only figure on the scene. He was 
standing a little back of the line of the boxes, and behind him was 
the curtained doorway. Miss Clara Harris and her fiance were 
intent upon Asa's soliloquy. William Withers' orchestra was mute, 
and neither behind the footlights nor in all that thronged house 
was an ear sensitive enough to catch from offstage the eerie strains 
of the danse macabre. 

Asa Don't know the manners of good society, eh? Wal, I guess I know 
enough to turn you inside out, old gal — you sockdologizing old man- 

Mary Lincoln laughed. Instantly there was a sound like the re- 
port of a firearm, muffled but distinct. Hawk thought it came from 
the property room. Then at the front of the President's box he 
saw a man brandishing a knife. 

Shouting words that Hawk did not understand, the man was 
over the balustrade. He landed upon the stage in a kneeling pos- 
ture, about two feet out from the lower box next to the footlights, 
making a long rent in the green-baize stage carpet. Harry Ford in 
the ticket-office had heard the shot and, opening the little window 
that gave on the parquet circle, he saw the man crouched to the 
stage. He could not guess what had happened, nor could Buck- 
ingham, the doorkeeper, who, through the doorway from the 
lobby, got sight of the man crossing toward the "prompt side"— 
crossing rapidly, with a gait that Mrs. Wright described as "like 
the hopping of a bull-frog," flourishing the knife as he went. 

Hawk had backed away and run from the scene, up the stair 
leading to the flies. The man disappeared into the first entrance. 
All had happened with an incredible swiftness. Smoke drifted out 
of the President's box. For a moment the greater part of the audi- 
ence sat as if in a trance. 


Abruptly, from within the box, a piercing scream rang out— and 
the house became an inferno. "There will never be anything like 
it on earth," declared Helen Truman. "The shouts, groans, curses, 
smashing of seats, screams of women, shuffling of feet and cries of 
terror created a pandemonium that must have been more terrible 
to hear than that attending the assassination of Caesar. Through 
all the ages it will stand out in my memory as the hell of hells." 

At the instant when the man came over the balustrade, James 
Ferguson had seen the President raise his head— "and then it hung 
back." From the same point of vantage (the dress circle opposite 
the box) W. H. Taylor had distinctly seen Lincoln try dazedly to 
rise. Others, too, had seen these things, or Mrs. Lincoln clutching 
at the President's arm, or Major Rathbone beside the President's 
chair. 19 

The huge J. B. Stewart, member of a law firm with offices on 
Pennsylvania Avenue and said to be the tallest man in Washington 
(overtopping "long Abraham" by some two inches), had clam- 
bered upon the stage and gone dashing after the fugitive. He had 
been sitting well forward in the orchestra and had moved with 
surprising agility, calling, "Stop that man!" Close on Stewart's 
heels went young James Knox, from the second row of orchestra 
chairs quite near the box. 20 Knox got lost in the scenery and came 
back. Voices from the box asked for brandy and a surgeon. Dr. 
Charles Taft, army surgeon in uniform, began to fight his way to 
the stage, while his wife cried, "You sha'n't go! They'll kill you, 
too— I know they will!" As he was lifted from stage to box, the 
cape was torn from his overcoat. A pitcher of water was handed up. 

There were shouts of "Hang him!" "Kill him!" Chairs were 
torn from their fastenings. Many persons were in tears. Actors and 
actresses were jumbled in confusion on the stage with those of the 

"Affidavits of Miss Harris and Major Rathbone. Washington Star, May 16, 1865. 
Washington Weekly Chronicle, May 20, 1865. Boston Globe, Apr. 11, 1915. Boston 
Herald, Apr. 11, 1897. Philadelphia Inquirer, Apr. 22, 1865. New York World, Feb. 
17, 1924. 

20 At the Conspiracy Trial, Stewart testified that he was in the front row of 
orchestra seats on the right-hand side. The record of his testimony at the Surratt 
Trial has: "Q. You were on the opposite side of the stage, as I understand, from that 
on which Booth jumped. A. Yes; I was on the right-hand aisle, I should judge about 
twenty feet from the extreme right-hand side of the stage [i.e., looking toward the 
audience]" (vol. i, p. 127). 


audience who kept mounting it. Some of the musicians had left 
their instruments behind them. Mrs. Wright put her foot through 
a 'cello that she seems to have been trying to use as a ladder. 

Doorkeeper Buckingham unfastened the other doors from lobby 
to street. ''Buck," said Harry Ford, "step out to the curb and get 
Mayor Wallach— you'll find him there. Ask him to come in and re- 
quest the people to leave the theater." Wallach finally reached the 
stage and from it announced what already was generally known— 
that the President had been shot. He asked the audience to leave 
as quietly as possible. Tenth Street was rapidly filling with a 
crowd. Soldiers of the Veteran Reserve Corps arrived and, using 
the butts of their guns, made a lane to 453, the house of William 
Petersen, across the way. Doctor Taft had decided that it would be 
fatal to drive the wounded Lincoln over the cobbles of Pennsyl- 
vania Avenue to the Executive Mansion. 

Down the stairway from the dress circle, men came bearing the 
unconscious figure. Weeping and wringing her hands, Mrs. Lin- 
coln followed, assisted by a Major Potter and by Major Rathbone, 
whose left upper arm dripped blood as he walked. Behind them 
was Miss Harris. Buckingham held open a door for the sorrowful 
procession. When it had passed out, he turned to note Laura 
Keene, who stood there in the lobby, her back to the ticket win- 
dow. As if she were treading the boards, she exclaimed in her 
clear tones, "For God's sake, try to capture the murderer!" 

Armed soldiers explored the house, in which the lights had been 
first dimmed to induce the crowd to leave and then raised to give 
Superintendent Richards of the Metropolitan Police an oppor- 
tunity for inspection. In dress circle and family circle stragglers 
yet lingered. "Get out of here!" the soldiers ordered. "Get out of 
here! We're going to burn this damned building down!" 

A detail of the Union Light Guard cleared and patrolled Tenth 
Street between E and F and remained during the night. Sergeant 
Stimmel, wakened from a heavy sleep, felt that this must be an 
awful nightmare— that he could not really be on duty. Word flew 
about that Secretary Seward and Frederick Seward had also been 
wounded, perhaps mortally, by a man who somehow had forced 
his way into the Seward house on Lafayette Square. He was said to 
have been one Boyle, notorious desperado and guerrillero; or 


Sattuck, a well-known Maryland rebel; or a ruffian named 
Thomas; or the dark bravo who had shot the President. At the 
headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, 483 Tenth Street, entry 
was made that he was "supposed to be John Serratt [sic].** "What 
news of Stanton?" was a common question. "Have they got him, 
too?" Could it be, men wondered, that Southern emissaries in 
Washington had planned this thing— that paroled Confederate 
soldiers and disloyal civilians would at a signal endeavor to seize 
the government? Couriers dashed hither and yon through the 
muddy streets. 21 

Having filed what he supposed would be the night's last dis- 
patch, Lawrence Gobright, correspondent of the Associated Press, 
was sitting in his office at the Metropolitan Hotel when in rushed 
a gentleman who had been present at Ford's and who gave him 
an account of what had happened there. Holding this gentleman 
firmly as a news-source too valuable to lose, Gobright sallied 
forth. He went to the telegraph office, sent a brief "special" with 
promise of further details soon, visited the theater, ranged about 
town, gleaned little but an impression of chaos and alarm. Every- 
where was dread of an extensive conspiracy, of some further 

Thousands in Washington sat up all night. "There were rooms 
waiting for us," wrote Julia Chapman, "but it seemed safer to be 
together." So far as Gobright was able to discover, it was not then 
known with certainty who had shot the President. Some appeared 
sure it was John Booth, but others said that they knew John Booth 
and that the dark man had no more than a superficial resemblance 
to him. In Lieutenant Crawford's opinion he had "very strongly 
resembled the Booths"— but Crawford ventured nothing less in- 
definite than that. Rumor was persistent that it had been Edwin 
Booth. Unconvinced in his own mind, Gobright waited until 
morning should bring something official. 22 

M Testimony of George D. Mudd at the Conspiracy Trial. New York Tribune, Apr. 
17, 1865; p. l. New York Herald, Apr. 19; p. 1. Photostatic copy of police blotter, 
Lincoln Museum. The National Republican of Mar. 3 had queried the desirability 
of having ''so large a number of men, who until recently have been aiding the 
leaders of the rebellion, let loose in the community." 

22 Gobright, "Recollections," pp. 348-354. Argument of General Ewing in the case 
of Doctor Mudd, Conspiracy Trial. Testimony of John T. Ford, Conspiracy Trial. 
M. B. Field, "Memories of Many Men," p. 328. 


Whoever he might have been, some thought the murderer was 
lurking in the city. Lincoln had been shot, it was alleged, either 
in the breast or just back of the temporal bone. After the Presi- 
dent had been carried from the box, many persons had entered it 
out of curiosity and looked around. One man had picked from the 
floor a "derringer" pistol six inches long and weighing a half- 
pound— a weapon that might easily fit into a man's pocket or a 
lady's reticule. On the butt was the lettering deringer, philad.— 
and Deringer (from the name of the maker) is the correct spelling, 
found in various works on small arms. 23 The finder, William F. 
Kent, handed the pistol to Gobright, who turned it over to Super- 
intendent Richards. 24 Across the street, in the house of the tailor 
Petersen, surgeons were probing for the bullet. 

All night long Sergeant Stimmel, not yet twenty-three, gradu- 
ally realizing that he was truly awake, rode slowly up and down in 
front of the Petersen house. All night the vigil was kept there, 
with comings and goings but no sign of hope. Gideon Welles, 
Secretary of the Navy, who had been there since eleven o'clock, 
stepped outside for a walk in the open air. Every few rods, knots 
of people, distressed and alarmed, had collected, and the white- 
bearded Secretary was constantly beset by their inquiries. Before 
he had returned, a little after six o'clock, a cold rain began to fall 
—a rain such as fell at Springfield when Lincoln bade farewell to 
his neighbors with "I now leave, not knowing when or whether 
ever I may return." A special dispatch to the New York Tribune 
said: "The President expired at a quarter to twelve." It was one 
of a host of rumors. 

Relieved from duty about seven o'clock, Sergeant Stimmel went 
to breakfast. As he lay asleep, that cheerless morning, the bells 
of Washington were tolling. 25 

23 A. C. Gould, "Modern American Pistols and Revolvers," pp. 26-30. C. W. 
Sawyer, "United States Single Shot Martial Pistols," p. 33. 

2< Surratt Trial, vol. i, p. 123. 

25 See further: Surratt Trial, vol. i, pp. 125-127. Princeton Alumni Weekly, Feb. 7, 
1917; p. 407. Washington Star, Apr. 14, 1903; p. 2. Leslie's Weekly, Mar. 26, 1908; 
p. 302. North Dakota Historical Quarterly, Jan. 1927; pp. 31-32. 



THE wounded President had been borne up the curving steps 
of Petersen's house to the second floor, and through the hall to a 
room in an extension at the back— a small room measuring seven- 
teen feet by nine and a half. Here a low walnut bedstead was 
drawn out from the wall and Lincoln was placed on it— diagonally, 
because of his height. At the left of the hallway as one entered 
were front and back parlors, with folding doors between them. 
In the back parlor Stanton established himself; and in Washing- 
ton that night there seems to have been no cooler head than his. 
Aided by Chief Justice David Cartter of the Supreme Court of 
the District, he started in to take depositions regarding the 

Longhand was found too slow for the purpose, and Corp. James 
Tanner was summoned from an adjoining house. Tanner, who 
had lost both legs in the war and become an employee in the ord- 
nance bureau of the War Department, was an accomplished 
shorthand writer. It was about midnight when he sat down at a 
table with Stanton and Cartter, and his work was frequently in- 
terrupted as reports were delivered or when the Secretary halted 
the testimony to issue orders. Though the folding doors were 
closed, the moans and sobs of Mrs. Lincoln could be heard 
plainly from the front room. In rare moments of silence the Presi- 
dent's labored breathing sounded through the hall, rising and 
falling like an aeolian harp— in Sumner's phrase, "almost like 

Occasionally Stanton would go for a few moments to Lincoln's 
bedside. Once when he came back and took his seat, Tanner 



looked up at him with unspoken question, and marked the choke 
in the throat— the slow, forced answer, "There is no hope." "He 
had impressed me through those awful hours as being a man of 
steel," Tanner afterward wrote, "but I knew then that he was 
dangerously near a convulsive breakdown." r 

Assistant Secretary Charles A. Dana discovered his chief "in full 
activity." Dana, who afterward became nationally known as editor 
of the New York Sun, declared in 1896 that he "never knew a man 
who could do so much work in a given time" as Stanton did. 

"Sit down here," Stanton said to Dana that night. "I want you." 

Then he began, Dana related, "and dictated orders one after 
another, which I wrote out and sent swiftly to the telegraph. All 
those orders were designed to keep the business of the government 
in full motion till the crisis should be over. It was perhaps two 
o'clock in the morning before he said, 'That's enough. Now you 
can go home.' " 2 

A midnight dispatch from Maj. Gen. M. C. Meigs (Quarter- 
master-General) to Gen. Christopher Augur, commanding the 
military district of Washington and the 22nd army corps, said 
that the Secretary ordered that "troops turn out; the guards be 
doubled; the forts be alert; guns manned; special vigilance and 
guard about the Capitol Prison." 3 There were Confederates and 
Confederate sympathizers in the Old Capitol. During a portion 
of the night, Augur was at the Petersen house in conference with 
the Secretary. Four men remained on duty all night in the tele- 
graph office of the War Department, and relays of mounted mes- 
sengers conveyed Stanton's bulletins and instructions. We have 
learned something about wartime Washington and can realize 
that it lacked not only such facilities as telephones, radios, and 
teletype machines but even multiplex telegraphy or the bicycle. 
Hence we shall not be beguiled into judging by artificial and im- 
possible standards the labors of Stanton and his aides in those 
first hours of shock. 

As Justice Cartter propounded questions to the witnesses, Tan- 
ner noted down the answers in Standard phonography. Various 

1 "The Passing of Lincoln" (Remarks of Hon. James A. Freer); pp. 5-6. 

2 "Lincoln and His Cabinet"; pp. 26, 68-69. 

3 Official Records ("The War of the Rebellion"), I, vol. xlvi, pt. 3; p. 756. 


persons were brought in who had been either at Ford's or in the 
neighborhood of Seward's house on Lafayette Square. Under pre- 
text of delivering medicine for Secretary Seward from Doctor 
Verdi, a man in a light overcoat had gained entrance to the house. 
Having fractured Frederick Seward's skull, he forced his way into 
the bedroom of the Secretary, whom he twice stabbed in the neck. 
The Secretary's life was saved by the steel frame around his broken 
jaw. After wounding Frederick's brother, Maj. A. H. Seward, the 
man rushed downstairs, mounted a horse, and escaped into Ver- 
mont Avenue. 

Tanner wrote to his friend Walch (April 17th) that through 
the testimony of all who had been at the theater ran "an under- 
tone of horror" which kept them from identifying the dark man 
explicitly with John Booth. Among them was Harry Hawk, the 
Asa Trenchard of "Our American Cousin," who already had 
given evidence at police headquarters and been put under bond 
to appear at ten o'clock Saturday morning. 

"To the best of my belief," Hawk said, "it was Mr. John Wilkes 
Booth— but I will not be positive." 

Hawk knew well enough it was John, as he admitted in a letter 
written on April 16th. 4 But he could not bring himself to be the 
accuser. Nor, although he had walked about the streets amid the 
wild excitement, could he quite make this thing seem true. His 
scene had been ruined. ". . . And to think," he wrote, "of such a 
sorrowful ending!" They led him to the door of the little room 
and asked him whether he recognized the unconscious Lincoln as 
the man who had been shot. 5 

Tanner commenced transcribing his notes into longhand. He 
saw Mrs. Lincoln, supported by Miss Harris, pass through the 
hallway toward the front parlor and heard her moan, "O my God, 
and have I given my husband to die!" (". . . I tell you," he wrote 
Walch, "I never heard so much agony in so few words.") He 
wrote on and on; could not believe it when his watch said four- 
thirty; finished at a quarter to seven. Then he went into the little 
room, where some twenty persons were grouped about the bed. 

4 Philadelphia Inquirer, Apr. 22; p. 2. 

6 American Historical Review, Apr. 1924; pp. 514-517. Philadelphia Inquirer, Apr. 
22, 1865; p. 2. Boston Herald, Apr. 11, 1897; P- 2 &- 


He saw Robert Lincoln with head bowed on the shoulder of 
Charles Sumner— Surgeon-General Barnes with hand upon Lin- 
coln's failing pulse, ear bent at intervals to catch the lessening 
heartbeat— Stanton with muscles twitching and gaze fixed in- 
tently on that worn face across which was settling a "look of 
unspeakable peace." At length the measured breathing grew 
slowly fainter and the sound of it ended, as if a harpist laid 

... his open palm 
Upon his harp, to deaden its vibrations. 

By the official record of Dr. Ezra W. Abbott the time was seven 
twenty-two on the morning of April 15th. 

The Surgeon-General gently folded Lincoln's arm over the still 
breast. "Our Father and Our God," said a voice lifted in prayer. 
It was the voice of the Rev. Phineas Gurley, pastor of the New 
York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Tanner snatched out note- 
book and pencil— the point of the pencil caught in his coat and 
broke. Sobs were audible. The Rev. Mr. Gurley said "Amen," and 
made pause. Then Stanton quietly summed up the moment in 
enduring words— words of prescience, words such as the mouth 
speaks out of the abundance of the heart: "Now he belongs to 
the ages." 

Of course the mythmakers have implied that Stanton uttered 
nothing of the kind; but that is how it was recorded by John Hay, 
a young man with rather a quick ear for turns of speech. Corporal 
Tanner gives "He belongs to the ages now"; Dr. Charles Taft, 
"He now belongs to the Ages." Both of these men were present, 
as was Hay. The Marquis de Chambrun has "He is a man for the 
ages," and this he may have obtained from his close friend Charles 
Sumner, who was present. 6 "He now belongs to the ages" is how 
Frank Flower puts it in his biography of Stanton, thus substan- 
tially agreeing with Taft. Possibly the remembered form— the 
"lapidary style," as Sam Johnson might have said— is Hay's; but it 
is clear that Stanton did say something like this. That he may also 
have said other things is beside the mark. 

It has likewise been insinuated that Stanton, for no clearly 
defined reason, tried to keep John Booth's name out of Saturday 

'"Personal Recollections of Mr. Lincoln," Scribner's Magazine, Jan. 1893; p. 38. 


morning's papers. If he did, he signally failed. Before twelve- 
fifteen the New York World had received this dispatch from Wash- 

Everybody who knows the man, say [sic] that J. Wilkes Booth, the 
actor, is the assassin. The evidence is concurrent at this late excited 
hour to that effect. 

The thirteenth special dispatch to the New York Tribune, dated 
at Washington on Friday, said: ''There is one universal acclaim 
of accusation resting upon J. Wilkes Booth as the assassin." The 
fourteenth (one-thirty, Saturday morning) was: "The mass of 
evidence to-night is that J. Wilkes Booth committed the crime." 
In the New York Herald appeared one Washington dispatch say- 
ing that "Popular report points to a somewhat celebrated actor 
of known secession proclivities as the assassin" . . . and another 
to the effect that Laura Keene and the orchestra leader (William 
Withers) had recognized the man as "J. Wilkes Booth, the actor." 
Washington's National Intelligencer stated in its third Saturday 

Developments have rendered it certain that the hand which deprived 
our President of life was that of JOHN WILKES BOOTH, an actor. 

In its second edition the Morning Chronicle proclaimed John 
Booth as the murderer. By Sunday morning the name had trav- 
ersed a continent, for readers of that day's Daily Alta California 
encountered, along with the shocking news of the murder, the 
announcement: "The murderer of the President was J. Wilkes 
Booth." Californians had known, esteemed, and applauded three 
of the Booth family. (While General Sherman was discussing 
with Gen. J. E. Johnston the terms of Johnston's surrender, it 
was thought best to withhold the tidings from the armies.) 

Corporal Tanner, making phonographic notes in William Pe- 
tersen's back parlor, impulsively felt that in fifteen minutes he 
"had testimony enough down to hang Wilkes Booth, the assassin, 
higher than ever Haman hung." This in spite of his admission 
that the witnesses shrank from positively identifying the dark man. 
In the light of evidence now available regarding that night's con- 
fusion and uncertainty, we may well think it to Stanton's credit 


that he was not stampeded. At three o'clock Saturday morning- 
only four and a half hours after the murder— his official bulletin 
to General Dix in New York read: 

Investigation strongly indicates J. Wilkes Booth as the assassin of the 
President. Whether it was the same or a different person that attempted 
to murder Mr. Seward remains in doubt. 

Dix was to transmit this to the press. It was as far as Stanton then 
cared to go publicly— and it was quick work. The whole sugges- 
tion that the Secretary of War was particeps criminis in the accom- 
plishing of Lincoln's death, and that he hoped to make it possible 
for Booth to escape before a general alarm could be given, is as 
inapt as it is malicious. 

Tanner went back to his room to write out for Stanton a second 
longhand copy. In a little while he heard a stir beneath his window 
and, on looking out, he saw the hearse with Lincoln's body move 
gloomily through the rain up Tenth Street toward F, the military 
escort marching with arms reversed. It was the real beginning of 
the long journey that Whitman was to immortalize in "When 
Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd." Involuntarily Tanner's 
hand went to his forehead in salute. 

Sixty years later the same Tanner, meantime twice made 
commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, re- 
marked that never did he feel more like hitting a man in cold 
blood than when "a sprig of a reporter" said to him with a smirk: 
"So you were really at Mr. Lincoln's deathbed? It must have been 
an interesting occasion." "I certainly would have smote him," 
Tanner protested, "if I had had the physical ability." 

Gen. W. E. Doster stood at the corner of Fifteenth Street and 
Pennsylvania Avenue as the hearse passed to the Executive Man- 
sion, the body shrouded with a white sheet and a flag. "And never 
before or since have I heard a crowd as that was, composed mostly 
of negroes, men and women, utter so loud and piercing a wail 
as these mourners uttered, when the body passed close to them. 
It seemed as if the whole world had lost a dear, personal friend, 
whose loss was not to be repaired." 7 

7 "Lincoln and Episodes of the Civil War"; p. 36. 


Men wept as they met in the street. One of Sergeant Stimmel's 
comrades of the Union Light Guard encountered another cavalry- 
man, a stranger from a different troop, and the two reined in their 
horses and spoke of the events of the night. "It probably means 
more to me than it does to you," the stranger said, as if excusing 
his tears. "He signed an order that saved me from being shot." 

As the night had worn away, evidence pointed ever more surely 
to John Booth as the dark man of the theater. Superintendent 
Richards of the Metropolitan Police conducted a "preliminary 
examination" at headquarters. "Several persons were called upon 
to testify," said the Daily Morning Chronicle of April 15th, "and 
the evidence, as elicited before an informal tribunal, and not 
under oath, was conclusive to this point: the murderer of Presi- 
dent Lincoln was John Wilkes Booth." Among those whose names 
were entered in the "incidental book" during the night were 
J. B. Stewart and J. S. Knox, who had started after the murderer; 
the actors Hawk and DeBonay; Maddox, the theater's property 
man; and John Fletcher, foreman of Thompson Nailor's livery 
stable (299 E Street, north). 

Men from the War Department went to Booth's room at the 
National Hotel. Among the things they found there were a pair 
of cassimere trousers, a pair of embroidered slippers, a half-filled 
bottle of hair oil, some killikinick tobacco, and a trunk. Papers 
taken from the trunk included a cipher code that was discovered 
to be identical with one picked up by Assistant Secretary Dana at 
Richmond on April 6th in the abandoned suite of J. P. Benjamin, 
Confederate Secretary of State. Among the correspondence Booth 
had left behind was Sam Arnold's letter of March 27th, from 
Hookstown, regarding the abduction plot. All this material was 
turned over to the office of Col. Prentiss Ingraham, provost mar- 
shal-general of the defenses north of the Potomac. 

Sam Arnold was not unknown to Maj. H. B. Smith, chief of de- 
tectives and assistant provost marshal-general of the Middle De- 
partment, with office in Baltimore. As soon as the authorities in 
Washington wanted Arnold, Major Smith and one of his opera- 
tives went out to Hookstown, which they reached about noon of 


the 16th. There they learned that Arnold had gone to Old Point 
—and the remainder was simple. In Smith's office a register was 
kept of all to whom passes for Old Point were issued. Arnold was 
on the register, vouched for by "Wickey" Wharton, sutler at Old 
Point. A dispatch was sent to Wharton, asking where Arnold was. 
"A clerk in my employ," Wharton replied. Arnold was arrested, 
reached Baltimore by the Bay Line steamer on April 18th, and 
was immediately delivered in Washington by Smith and Officer 
Babcock. McPhail, the civil provost marshal of Maryland (having 
to do with enrolments and drafts, and independent of the regular 
military service), had telegraphed to Assistant Secretary Dana at 
two-forty on the 16th for orders to arrest Arnold, but by that time 
Smith had acted. 8 

Such is the real story of the procedure in Arnold's case, about 
which some queries have been raised. It is of peculiar interest to 
us for two reasons. It shows how from the beginning the loosely 
co-ordinated agencies then existing were prone to work independ- 
ently of one another— sometimes influenced, no doubt, by lively 
expectations of tangible reward. Also it reveals the complete lack 
of any official distinction between the abduction plot and the 
affair of the murder. This undiscriminative bias was to result in 
grave injustice to individuals, and it promoted confusion in the 
public mind. 

If by daylight of the 15th the guilt of John Booth was reasonably 
sure, nevertheless his whereabouts remained uncertain. There 
were several ways by which such a fugitive might conceivably get 
out of Washington: the Baltimore turnpike; the Baltimore and 
Ohio Railroad, to Baltimore and northward; the Long Bridge, 
from the foot of Maryland Avenue to Alexander's Island on the 
Virginia shore; the Navy Yard bridge, crossing the Eastern Branch 
from Eleventh Street (east) to Uniontown; Benning's bridge, 
spanning the Eastern Branch a little higher up; the Aqueduct 
bridge from Georgetown to the Virginia side, connecting with 
roads leading toward Leesburg and Richmond; the ferry to Alex- 
andria. Wartime vigilance at bridgeheads and other points had 
been greatly relaxed. On the 14th two gentlemen had importuned 

"Smith, "Between the Lines"; pp. 292-294. 


Lincoln for a pass to Richmond and he had written upon a card: 9 

No pass is necessary now to au- 
thorize any one to go to & return 
from Petersburg Sc Richmond — 
People go & return just as they 
did before the war. 

A. Lincoln 

As early as the ist the Intelligencer had given notice: 

NO PASSES REQUIRED.— On and after to-day, no more passes will 
be required to visit Alexandria. 

Tanner informs us that Stanton's repeated direction from Pe- 
tersen's was: "Guard the Potomac from the city down. He [Booth] 
will try to get south." 10 But many suspected— and quite naturally 
—that Booth might have headed for Baltimore; so at three o'clock 
on the morning of the 15th Stanton prepared this dispatch to 
Gen. William W. Norris, commanding the Baltimore district: 

Make immediate arrangements for guarding thoroughly every avenue 
leading into Baltimore, and if possible arrest J. Wilkes Booth, the 
murderer of President Lincoln. 11 

(A sidelight upon the conditions under which Stanton worked is 
afforded by the fact that although this dispatch was marked to be 
rushed, it was not put on the wire until three fifty-five.) 

Chief Young of New York's detective force, with officers Elder, 
Kelso, and Radford, took the first train to Washington on Satur- 
day morning for the purpose of aiding in the capture. Before they 
could reach there, a dispatch from the capital announced that the 
murderer had been arrested north of the city. 12 Late that afternoon 
the National Republican of Washington said: 


We learn that Booth, the supposed assassin of Mr. Lincoln, has 
been captured, and has been transferred to absolutely safe quarters. 

9 Original in the Lincoln Museum, Washington. 

10 "The Passing of Lincoln"; p. 5. 

11 Official Records, I, vol. xlvi, pt. 3; p. 775. 

12 Commercial Advertiser, Apr. 15; 1st ed. (1:30 p.m.), p. 1 — 2nd ed. (2 p.m.), p. 3. 


It was false, but no more so than scores of flying reports, mis- 
statements, and innuendoes. A fictional accretion had begun to 
collect, and its growth has never ceased. To the canards of news- 
mongers, the errors of the misinformed, the inventions of parti- 
sans, the perjuries of lying witnesses, have been added the delu- 
sions of cranks and the impostures of humbugs. So far as lapse of 
time and defects of evidence permit, we must try to recover some- 
thing of the truth— or at the least, something of the probabilities. 

"Evidently conspirators are among us!" the Intelligencer edi- 
torially proclaimed. "To what extent does the conspiracy exist? 
This is a terrible question! We can only advise the utmost vigi- 
lance and the most prompt measures by the authorities. We can 
only pray God to shield us, His unworthy people, from further 
calamities like these!" 

Writing to his brother, Dr. George Todd, surgeon of the Mon- 
tauk, said: 

Today all the city is in mourning, nearly every house being in black 
and I have not seen a smile. No business, and many a strong man I 
have seen in tears. 13 

Solomon Faunce, a governmental clerk, wrote home: 

. . . You can form no idea of the excitement that exists on the street. 
We were dismissed at 10 o'clock this morning — in fact we couldn't 
have done anything if we had undertaken it. I don't think the nation 
has had such a gloomy day during its existence. Our stores, dwelling- 
houses, and public buildings are all draped in mourning. The shock 
is terrible. . . . Perhaps the South thought that they were doing them- 
selves some good in this killing Mr. Lincoln but I tell you that as soon 
as Andrew Johnson the Vice-President comes in they will find their 
mistake. For he goes in for hanging every son of them. And Bully for 
him! That's what I say, and as for Booth, tear him to pieces M 

Major Gleason, a clerk with Louis Weichmann in the office of 
the Commissary-General of Prisoners, went early to the office, 
"where I found confusion, no work doing, and all discussing the 
calamity." During the night he had visited General Augur's head- 
quarters in company with Lieut. Joshua Sharp, an assistant pro- 

13 From the copy in the possession of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. 
"From the original in the McLellan Collection, Brown University. 


vost marshal on Augur's staff. There, too, they had discovered 
"everybody excited and confusion reigning." "If there was any 
cool-headed man there," Gleason wrote, "he was not in sight— nor 
is it to be wondered at, the shock was so great the mind was dazed 
and numb." "Such a night of horror," that morning's Intelligencer 
declared, "has seldom darkened any community. The indefinite 
dread which conspiracy inspires seized on the public mind, and 
suspicion, apprehension, and agony pervaded the people." 

A dispatch of the 14th to the Tribune from its Washington 
bureau read: "Ten thousand rumors are afloat, and the most in- 
tense and painful excitement pervades the city." That "Col. 
Parker of Gen. Grant's staff" was the Lincolns' guest in the box; 
that the President and Mrs. Lincoln did not leave for the theater 
until 8:45 o'clock; that Lincoln had a "ball-hole in his forehead'*; 
and that there was little hope of Seward's recovery (although 
neither Doctor Verdi nor Surgeon-General Barnes, both of whom 
were at once summoned, had even implied such a thing)— these 
were among the unverified reports which the same bureau tele- 
graphed to New York. They were but precursors of the vast med- 
ley of error that was to issue from Washington for months to come. 

Measures had been taken by the local authorities to preserve 
the outward semblance of public order. Superintendent Richards 
had promptly telegraphed to every precinct and all streets were 
patrolled. At the Superintendent's request General Augur fur- 
nished mounts for the police. The Kirkwood House, where Vice- 
President Johnson had room 68, had been placed under special 
guard. Men of the Veteran Reserve Corps, commanded by Major 
Steckner, took charge of the theater, using the lounging room for a 
dormitory. Alarmed by threats to fire the building, Edman Span- 
gler, who usually bunked in the theater and rarely slept in a bed, 
made a shakedown in the carpenter's shop in the four-story annex. 
He and other employees now had to carry military passes to go in 
and out. Many persons were wildly convinced that the theater 
was in some way bound up with the murder and that Lincoln had 
been invited with this purpose in view. 

At eleven o'clock on the morning of the 15th, in his room at 
the Kirkwood, Andrew Johnson was sworn in as President of the 


United States by Chief Justice Chase. In his brief inaugural ad- 
dress he said: 

. . . The only assurance I can now give of the future is reference to 
the past. The course which I have taken in the past in connection with 
this rebellion must be regarded as a guaranty of the future. . . . The 
best energies of my life have been spent in endeavoring to establish and 
perpetuate the principles of free government, and I believe that the 
Government in passing through its present perils will settle down upon 
principles consonant with popular rights more permanent and endur- 
ing than heretofore. ... I feel that in the end the Government will 
triumph and that these great principles will be permanently estab- 
lished. 15 

At twelve, Johnson attended a meeting of the Cabinet and, so 
far as the fastidious Gideon Welles could observe, "deported 
himself admirably." 16 It is, in passing, worthy of notice that Lin- 
coln, though styled "Old Abe" (sometimes affectionately and 
sometimes not) and though referred to by himself in 1861 as al- 
ready "an old man," had just entered his fifty-sixth year in Febru- 
ary 1865 and thus was actually younger than Johnson, who had 
been born in December 1808. 

In the dismal light of that rainy Saturday morning, Mary Lin- 
coln was led from the front parlor of Petersen's to her carriage. 
Her gaze fell upon the theater she had entered so happily less 
than twelve hours before. 

"Oh," she cried, "that dreadful house— that dreadful house!" 

Shut from the world, sunk in a frantic and despairing grief, she 
stayed on for a time in the Executive Mansion that to her had 
never been a home. In the stress and clamor of ensuing days she 
was well-nigh forgotten. 

Trains between Washington and Baltimore were searched. On 
the night of the 15th, troops surrounded the Booth homestead at 
Belair, which had been rented to a Baltimore family named King. 
Dwelling and farm buildings were thoroughly explored. 

"John Booth is not here," said Mrs. King, vexed at the abrupt 

""Messages and Papers of the Presidents," vol. vi, p. 305. 
16 "Diary," vol. ii, p. 289. 


intrusion. "But if he were, you would have found him an honored 

"Madam," was the answer, "it is well for you that we have not 
found him here." 17 

The Daily Chronicle of the 15th stated: 

As it is suspected that this conspiracy originated in Maryland, the 
telegraph flashed the mournful news to Baltimore, and all the cavalry 
was immediately put upon active duty. Every road was picketed, and 
every precaution taken to prevent the escape of the assassin. 18 

The New York Herald of April 16th carried this Washington 
dispatch of the previous afternoon (twelve-thirty): 

John Wilkes Booth, towards whom the evidence conclusively points 
as the assassin of the President, has been arrested near Baltimore, and 
will be placed for safe keeping on board a Monitor at the Navy Yard 
here, which will be anchored in the stream. 

The indignation of the people is so intense that an attempt to con- 
fine him in any prison would lead to a sanguinary conflict between the 
people and the guard. 

Ten minutes before this dispatch had been filed, Gen. James A. 
Hardie had telegraphed from Washington to the agent of the 
military railroad, Alexandria: 

It is reported that the assassin of the President has gone out hence to 
Alexandria, thence on train to Fairfax. Stop all trains in that direc- 
tion. . . . 

On the same day (the 15th) Gen. W. L. Jeffers, signing as Acting 
Provost Marshal-General, telegraphed that it was believed the 
assassins of the President and Secretary Seward were attempting 
to escape to Canada. His instructions accordingly were that all 
persons seeking to cross into Canada be thoroughly examined and 
any deemed suspicious be arrested. 

Marshal McPhail, apparently on his own initiative, was sending 
word to St. Inigoes, far down the Potomac, that Booth should be 
looked for in St. Mary's and Calvert Counties; and General Augur, 
commander of the Washington district, was ordering General 
Slough at Alexandria to send a squad of cavalry down toward the 

17 E. V. Mahoney, "Sketches of Tudor Hall and the Booth Family"; p. 50. 

18 See also the Commercial Advertiser (New York), Apr. 15. 


Occoquan River to intercept anybody crossing the upper Potomac 
from the region of Piscataway in Lower Maryland. 

On the night of the 14th Major Gleason, fellow clerk with 
Louis Weichmann in the office of the Commissary-General of 
Prisoners, went into a small room in which members of the staff 
were consulting at Augur's headquarters and recommended that 
Weichmann and the entire Surratt household be arrested. "I also 
asked," he wrote, "for a cavalry squad to go with me to the Sur- 
ratt place in Maryland, as I thought the assassin would escape 
that way." But they said he "could be of more assistance in Wash- 
ington." 19 

Time was passing, and army men were divided in councils; but 
soldiers like Gleason, knowing that Stanton was in charge, were 
convinced that everything possible would be done. They thought 
the Secretary arrogant, churlish, and inhuman, but they felt, as 
Gleason did, that "he was a man of sound judgment as well as 
iron will; in other words one who could be depended on in a 
pinch." They knew him for a driver. When Halleck had wished 
three months for moving Hooker's two corps from Virginia into 
Tennessee, Stanton said fifteen days. "It can't be done," Halleck 
told him. "It can be done and by the will of God it shall be done," 
Stanton countered, thumping the desk; and it was done. 

Advised by Stanton to "search and patrol the roads leading from 
Washington, particularly in the direction of the Occoquan," 
Augur sent a detail of cavalry to Piscataway in Prince George's 
County, Lower Maryland. This detail was commanded by Lieut. 
David Dana, provost marshal in the third brigade of the 22nd 
army corps and brother to Charles A. Dana, Assistant Secretary 
of War. Lieutenant Dana and his men must have left Washington 
at a very early hour on Saturday morning, for they reached Pis- 
cataway at seven o'clock. From there Dana reported that arrange- 
ments had been made which would render it impossible for 
fugitives to cross the Potomac at that point. He also sent a mes- 
senger to notify the small cavalry post at Chapel Point, below Port 
Tobacco, that the President had been murdered. 

19 Magazine of History, Feb. 1911; p. 64. 


On Saturday a variety of persons began to take up the chase 
into Lower Maryland. Among them were Superintendent Rich- 
ards of the Metropolitan Police; Maj. James O'Beirne, provost 
marshal of the District of Columbia; Maj. John Waite of General 
Augur's staff; and Col. H. H. Wells, provost marshal of the de- 
fenses south of the Potomac. (Provost marshals in bewildering 
array confront us on every hand.) By the best accounts, 1,400 
cavalrymen were scattered over this area to patrol the wretched 
roads, question close-lipped residents, and (dismounted) scour 
the marshy tracts that fed creeks and sluggish rivers. It was sup- 
posed that Booth might perhaps have sought temporary refuge in 
one of those wastes of thicket, quagmire, and black water. 

Strangers to the terrain, men of the Sixteenth New York and 
Eighth Illinois, and even more unwelcome Negro troops, ranged 
the largely hostile peninsula. John Young, chief of New York 
City's detectives, was there with some of his operatives. Other 
sleuths were furnished by Major O'Beirne; by Col. H. S. Olcott, 
special commissioner of the War Department, later a founder of 
the Theosophical Society; and by Colonel Ingraham, who lived 
to write six hundred paper-back novels but none so thrilling as 
the true story of the pursuit of John Booth. 

By Monday morning (April 17th) the New York Herald was 

The miscreants who assassinated Mr. Lincoln and attempted the life 
of Secretary Seward are still at large. The military and police authori- 
ties of Washington and all over the country are actively engaged in 
attempts to effect their capture, and they should be assisted in every 
possible manner by every citizen. Let each man resolve himself into a 
special detective policeman, sparing no vigilance or labor until these 
detested wretches are hunted down and secured for justice. It is a duty 
which every man owes to his conscience and his country. 

Zealous but misguided patriots already were assuming this duty 
in the most indiscriminate fashion. 

Meanwhile, Secretary Stanton had ideas of his own. At three- 
twenty on the afternoon of Saturday, April 15th, this telegram 
had left the War Department: 20 

20 Official Records, I, vol. xlvi, pt. 3; p. 783. 


Col. L. C. Baker, New York: 

Come here immediately and see if you can find the murderers of the 

Edwin M. Stanton, 

Secretary of War. 

During that Good Friday night of dismay and terror, and the 
days and nights of the following week, all sorts of fictions began 
to take shape; and fictions have been so increasing and so ramify- 
ing through the years that anyone surveying with some little de- 
gree of care the general topic of Lincoln's murder would easily 
become satisfied that in written form as well as in popular tradi- 
tion the erroneous and the mendacious have in bulk considerably 
exceeded the accurate and the true. When it was difficult or impos- 
sible to arrive at the truth, the probable seems generally to have 
been elbowed out in favor of the unlikely. 

It was rumored among the populace that it had been Davy 
Herold who held Booth's horse in the alley that night. ("Peanuts" 
Burroughs, with his bruised head and no tip, knew better.) Maun- 
sell B. Field, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, said that at first 
the impression was prevalent that Lincoln's wound was "about 
the region of the heart" and "might not prove fatal." Talk was 
that in the darkness ambushed enemies at several points had fired 
on the pickets sent out to gird the city. 

It was said that John Booth had handed a sealed envelope to 
John F. Coyle, editor of the Intelligencer, with the request: "If 
you hear of me within twenty-four hours, publish this; if you do 
not hear of me within that time, destroy it." Although Coyle ex- 
pressly denied under oath that either he or anyone else connected 
with the Intelligencer received anything of the sort, the yarn 
continued to turn up— sometimes with ornamental details, such as 
the burning of the still unopened packet by Coyle at a dinner 
party. 21 

The fact (as we have seen) was that on the afternoon of April 
14th Booth had given to his friend John Matthews "a paper 
sealed and stamped," to be delivered next morning at the Intelli- 
gencer office. During the uproar in the theater immediately after 

a Poore, vol. i, pp. 352-353. New York Tribune, June 22, 1878. 


the murder, Matthews, who seems to have been thoroughly terri- 
fied by what had happened, went straight to his room in the Peter- 
sen house and locked the door. He expected that Ford's would be 
burned. When he removed his coat, the letter Booth had handed 
him dropped to the floor. He opened and read it. It covered three 
pages of notepaper, and Matthews said (more than two years 
afterward) that the last paragraph went about like this: 

For a long time I have devoted my energies, my time and money to 
the accomplishment of a certain end. I have been disappointed. The 
moment has now arrived when I must change my plans. Many will 
blame me for what I am about to do; but posterity, I am sure, will 
justify me. 

Men who love their country better than gold or life: J. W. Booth, 
Paine, Herold, Atzerodt. 22 

Matthews promptly burned the letter. He felt very much as did 
another friend of Booth's, Col. William E. Sinn, who was manag- 
ing the Chestnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. "... I tried," 
wrote Sinn, "to persuade myself that I did not know Booth. When 
questioned in regard to the subject my memory was a blank." 
Matthews had been cognizant of the abduction plot and naturally 
felt uneasy. There can be no doubt that the shock of the murder 
deeply affected him. In later years he would sometimes hint that 
he had come within an ace of being hanged on a lamppost. From 
1891 he was investigating agent or almoner of the Actors' Fund in 
New York City. His close friend James Young, Shakespearean 
actor and lecturer on the drama, stated to the present writer: 

I never spoke to him about his experiences during the time of the 
Lincoln murder. Any reference to it made him wildly excited so that 
he earned the reputation of being erratic — which he was not. Unfeeling 
people would purposely make mention of the fact that he was mixed up 
in the conspiracy, to see the effect it would have. Matthews would rush 
madly from the room. 

In one instance we have an opportunity to watch a fiction in 
process of growth. Between the second and third acts Lewis Car- 
land, the theater's costumer, and James Gifford, stage carpenter, 
had gone out with Conductor Withers and John Dyott (the Abel 

22 Matthews' letter to the Intelligencer, July 18, 1867. Cf. the version he gave before 
the Committee on the Judiciary (Fortieth Congress, 1st session, House Report 7; 
p. 783). 


Murcott of the play) for a drink in Taltavull's place. Gifford and 
Carland then remained for a while in front of the theater, where 
they were joined by Courtland Hess, the actor whose part the 
call boy Ferguson was taking. Hess was to be one of the vocalists 
when "Honor to Our Soldiers" was given at the close of the per- 
formance. Wondering how soon he must get into evening clothes 
and appear before the President, he asked in a rather loud tone 
what time it was and Carland stepped into the lobby, looked at 
the clock, brought word that it was ten minutes past ten. "Ten 
minutes past ten," said Hess— 'Til be wanted in a few minutes." 23 

A Sergeant Dye, from Camp Barry, was loitering on the side- 
walk. We can only surmise that the Sergeant may also have been 
patronizing Taltavull's— not wisely but too well; for after the 
murder he told an absurd yarn of how Booth and two fellow- 
conspirators had met in front of the theater and behaved most 
conspicuously and suspiciously, and how one of the accomplices 
had, watchman fashion, thrice called the time from the lobby. For 
a half-hour the Sergeant observed these dubious proceedings but 
did nothing, though inwardly conjecturing that they boded no 
good to the President. 24 

Young George Alfred Townsend ("Gath"), special corre- 
spondent of New York's World, when he chanced upon this fan- 
tasy of Dye's, transmuted it into something rich and strange: 

Suddenly there was a murmur near the audience door, as of a man 
speaking above his bound. He said: — 

"Nine o'clock and forty-five minutes!" 

These words were reiterated from mouth to mouth until they passed 
the theatre door, and were heard upon the sidewalk. 

Directly a voice cried, in the same slightly raised monotone — 

"Nine o'clock and fifty minutes!" This also passed from man to man, 
until it touched the street like a shudder. 

"Nine o'clock and fifty-five minutes!" said the same relentless voice, 
after the next interval, each of which narrowed to a lesser span the life 
of the good President. 

Ten o'clock here sounded, and conspiring echo said in reverbera- 
tion — 

"Ten o'clock!" 

^Surratt Trial, vol. i, pp. 557-566. 

24 New York Tribune, Apr. 21, 1865. Testimony at the Conspiracy Trial. 


So, like a creeping thing, from lip to lip went — 

"Ten o'clock and five minutes!" 

An interval. 

"Ten o'clock and ten minutes!" 

At this instant Wilkes Booth appeared in the door of the theatre, 
and the men who had repeated the time so faithfully and so ominously, 
scattered at his coming as at some warning phantom. 

All of which is an extract not from a "penny dreadful" or a 
dime novel but from a journalist's letter to his paper. It is fustian 
and nonsense— but not more so than other things written about 
Lincoln's murder. 

William M. Stewart, senator from Nevada, was responsible for 
a story that has been retailed by various writers, either with com- 
plete indorsement or with something like tacit approval. Accord- 
ing to Stewart, Andrew Johnson, wakened in the Kirkwood House 
at eight o'clock on the dire morning of April 15th, was in a be- 
sotted condition, hardly able to walk and with mud caked in his 
hair. Barber, doctor, tailor were summoned for the emergency, 
that Johnson might be rendered halfway fit for public view. Of 
this figment and its several minutiae we may well say, with George 
F. Milton, "A more outrageous lie has seldom been told in his- 

When Johnson was sworn in at eleven o'clock that morning in 
his Kirkwood lodgings, all the members of the Cabinet except 
Seward were present and the senators who had not yet left the 
capital were brought in as witnesses. None found anything to 
criticize in the occasion except that a few detected traces of ego- 
tism in Johnson's five-minute address and regretted the absence 
of any eulogy of Lincoln. The opening sentence was: "I must be 
permitted to say that I have been almost overwhelmed by the 
announcement of the sad event which has so recently occurred"; 
and Johnson was scarcely to be blamed if he thought extempore 
panegyric unsuitable. 

He had been roused from sleep on Friday night by Ex-Gov. 
L. J. Farwell of Wisconsin, who had rushed from the theater to 
the Kirkwood and told him the news. The temporary guard sta- 
tioned by the hotel clerks was soon relieved by the provost guard 


of Maj. James O'Beirne, and personal friends arrived to inquire 
after Johnson's safety. "Distrust and horror," wrote Farwell, 
"filled every mind." Johnson decided to go to the Petersen house, 
although his friends thought he ought not to leave the hotel 
"when there was so much excitement in the city, and when the 
extent of the conspiracy was unknown." Major O'Beirne wished 
to send a detachment of troops with him but Johnson declined 
the offer; and, accompanied by only the Major and Farwell, he 
made his way to Petersen's and joined the "sad circle" in the over- 
crowded little back room. In the account obtained by Senator 
Doolittle for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Farwell 
does not say that Johnson remained until the end. 25 

A Washington dispatch printed in the first edition (one-thirty 
p.m.) of the New York Commercial Advertiser for Saturday 
afternoon, April 15th, referred thus to the scene at 453 Tenth 

Mr. Sumner is seated at the head of the bed. Secretary Stanton, 
Welles, Dennison, Usher and McCulloh [sic], and Mr. Speed are in the 
room. A large number of surgeons, generals, and personal family 
friends of Mr. Lincoln fill the house. All are in tears. Andy Johnson is 
here. He was in bed in his room at the Kirkwood when the assassina- 
tion was committed. He was immediately apprised of the event, and 
got up. The precaution was taken of providing a guard of soldiers for 
him and these were at his door before the news was well through the 

Some contemporary pictures show Johnson in the group at the 
bedside, others do not. That is of no significance, especially as the 
group changed many times during the night and no two of the 
pictures fully correspond. 

It was believed by many that scene shifter Edman Spangler cut 
the rough mortise that was found in the wall behind the vestibule 
door, supplied the wooden bar, and bored the quarter-inch hole 
in the door of box 7. There is no evidence that he did any of 
these things. Spangler's customary daytime work was limited to 
the stage or its close neighborhood and he was not seen in the 
upper part of the house unless specifically directed to go there— 

25 Doolittle Papers, State Historical Society of Wisconsin. 


as he was, for example, on the afternoon of the 14th, when he 
and Jake Ritterspaugh, another scene shifter, removed the parti- 
tion between boxes 7 and 8 and forthwith went downstairs. The 
mortise was cut roughly into the plaster with a penknife; the bar 
was a makeshift, originally intended for some other purpose. A 
carpenter like Spangler would not have made the one nor used 
the other. It was testified that the hole in the box door appeared 
to have been bored with a gimlet, then reamed with a penknife. 
An iron-handled gimlet, capable of boring a hole three-sixteenths 
of an inch in diameter, was discovered in Booth's trunk at the 
National after Booth had disappeared. 

Three or four times during that season Booth had engaged box 
7, and he commonly had access to all parts of the theater. The 
vestibule door had no fastening whatever and he could have en- 
tered the vestibule unobserved when he wished. It was because 
this door had no fastening on the inside that he had the bar ready 
to thrust like a strut between the door and the wall, with which it 
made an acute angle. One end of the bar would rest in the crude, 
shallow mortise. The idea was of course to keep anyone from fol- 
lowing on Booth's heels. 

Several circumstances show that Spangler could have had no 
knowledge of Booth's design. When Booth rode into the alley 
between five and six on Friday afternoon and sent for Spangler, 
the busy stagehand came reluctantly and, having led the horse 
into the stable, started to remove saddle and bridle, evidently 
supposing that Booth was putting up the animal for the night. 
Later, when Booth, during the course of the play, led the horse 
up to the rear door, Spangler took the rein unwillingly and 
quickly turned it over to "Peanuts." 

John F. Sleichmann, assistant property man, stated that Span- 
gler, when Booth came in the rear door, was "standing by one of 
the wings"; that Booth said, "Ned, you'll help me all you can, 
won't you?" and that Spangler answered, "Oh, yes." It appears, 
however, that Sleichmann was nowhere near the rear door at the 
time and that Spangler did not meet Booth on the inside of the 
door but went outside, where Booth was waiting. Spangler long 
afterward explained that this interchange did occur in the hearing 
of Sleichmann and others but on a previous occasion and in ref- 


erence to the sale of Booth's driving horse and buggy. 2Q Much was 
made of a rope found in Spangler's carpetbag at a house where he 
took his meals. The rope was plainly an old one that had served 
its day in the theater and been treasured by Spangler for future 
use as a crabline. If it was for service that night— and what could 
that service imaginably have been?— why was it not kept at hand 
in the theater or in Booth's stable? 

Spangler did not continue to hold Booth's horse— without delay 
he went back to his place on the stage. He did not open the door 
for Booth— Booth himself opened the door and slammed it as 
he passed out. At the moment of the fatal shot, Spangler was just 
back of the doorway in the scenery— a point at some distance from 
the passage and door through which Booth went. Spangler made 
no attempt to get away. He remained "about the Theatre," wrote 
John T. Ford, "bitterly lamenting he did not know Booth's intent 
or his crime until after his escape as he would have struck and cap- 
tured him." Taken to Carroll prison on Monday the 17th, Span- 
gler was brought on the 20th to the Superintendent's office and 
there confronted with the romancing Sergeant Dye, "who merely 
nodded his head and left the room." Thus was the scene shifter 
identified as one of the two villains with whom Dye alleged Booth 
had been conferring on the sidewalk in front of Ford's! 27 As a mat- 
ter of fact there was evidence enough, both positive and negative, 
to show that Spangler could not have been there. We know that 
Jake Ritterspaugh, who bore false witness against Spangler, had 
been heard to say he would like to get some of the reward money; 
and possibly the same kind of bee was humming in Dye's bonnet. 

Booth's drawn bowie knife, it was whispered, had been for 
Grant— but Booth must have been fully aware that Grant was not 
present. The knife, a silent weapon, was primarily for anybody 
that might try to intercept Booth in the vestibule; secondarily for 
anybody that might get in his way or attempt to grapple with him 
(as Major Rathbone did) after the single-shot Deringer had been 
fired. A cartridge has been exhibited as "similar to the one which 
Booth used in shooting Lincoln." Booth's Deringer did not fire 

26 Statement in "The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd," p. 324. 
"John T. Ford MSS. 



a cartridge— it was a muzzle-loader, firing a ball by means of a 
brass percussion cap. After the weapon was picked up in the box 
where Booth had dropped it, an extra cap was found in a cavity 
in the butt. Just what Booth would have done if the pistol had 


a. Apron of stage — b. Door into vestibule from dress circle — c. Door of 
nearer box (this remained closed) — d. Door of farther box (this remained 
open — e. Lincoln — /. Mrs. Lincoln — g. Miss Harris — h. Major Rathbone — 
i. Spot where Booth landed on stage, near first-tier boxes — k. Line of re- 
moved partition. 

missed fire, as Lawrence's two pistols did when he leveled them 
at Andrew Jackson, we have no way of knowing. As it was, he 
dropped the pistol and shifted the knife from his left hand to his 
right. A professor was reported as having said that more than two 
hundred pistols "with which Lincoln was killed" are in existence 
in various collections and that some of them were not made until 


long after 1865. The genuine article never left the keeping of the 
War Department. As for the hole in the door, which some main- 
tained was to shoot through— it was to look through, so that Booth 
might know just where and how Lincoln was sitting. 

Rathbone seized Booth, but he broke away and lunged at Rath- 
bone with the knife. Parrying the stroke, Rathbone was wounded 
in the left arm, but he rushed forward in a vain endeavor again to 
seize Booth, who was just going over the balustrade. In his dash 
along the passage from the stage to the rear door, Booth collided 
with William Withers, the conductor, who stood in the third en- 
trance. He made a couple of stabs at Withers and plunged out 
into the darkness. It may be that, coming from the footlighted 
stage into the dim alley, he did not rightly know who was holding 
the horse. Possibly he thought it was Spangler. As he mounted, he 
felled "Peanuts" with a blow from the butt end of the knife. 
Stewart, close behind, reached the alley in time to see the horse 
curvetting from side to side. Then, crouched over the pommel 
of the saddle, Booth spurred the animal forward and up the slight 
incline of the alley entrance into F Street, where he turned, Stew- 
art said, to the right (toward the Patent Office). 

Of minor consequence in itself, but illustrative of the jumbled 
and inconsistent testimony as to what happened at Ford's, is the 
dispute regarding Laura Keene. Townsend said that Miss Keene 
"ascended the stairs in the rear of Mr. Lincoln's box"— but there 
were no stairs in the rear of the "state box." John T. Ford ex- 
pressly stated that the only approach was by the vestibule door 
through which Booth went; Harry Ford, that there was no door 
in the back wall. 28 According to the New York Herald, Miss Keene 
"made her way, which was rather circuitous, through the dress 
circle to the President's box." William J. Ferguson wrote that he 
personally assisted Miss Keene over the footlights to the floor of 
the orchestra. "We went rapidly to the lobby stairs," he continued, 
"and thence up to the box." . . . 29 

Mrs. J. B. Wright (Annie F. Wright), widow of the stage man- 
ager at Ford's, denied that Miss Keene was in the box at all, 

28 Surratt Trial ("The Reporter," vol. iv, pp. 13, 18). 

29 Saturday Evening Post, Feb. 12, 1929. 


There was no way that she could have gained access to the box di- 
rectly from the stage. She would have had to go to the front of the 
theater, mount the main staircase to the balcony [dress circle], then 
work her way through a surging crowd along the back of the balcony 
to the box. It was simply impossible. 30 

Nevertheless, Miss Jennie Gourlay (Mrs. Struthers) asserted 
that Miss Keene was in the box. Three Gourlays were in that 
night's cast: Thomas C. (Sir Edward Trenchard), and daughters 
Margaret and Jennie (respectively, Skillet and Mary Meredith). 
Jennie stated that T. C. Gourlay "took Laura Keene up to the 
box by a way known to the regular [Ford's] company"— that he 
"escorted Miss Keene through a side entrance"— that he "unlocked 
a door of a private passage." 31 As we have noted, the stage en- 
trance proper was on the "lower" (south) side of the theater, and 
was reached from Tenth Street by passing through a corridor in 
the adjoining building (where Taltavull's place was), then along 
the theater wall and up a few steps from the ground level to the 
level of the stage. This three-storied adjoining building extended 
back less than half the depth of the theater, and at the rear an 
outer stair gave convenient access to the third floor, where Harry 
and James Ford had their rooms. 

If Jennie Gourlay's statement is correct, it seems possible that 
Miss Keene went up this stair and thus entered the "lounging 
room" that opened from the adjoining building's second floor di- 
rectly into the south end of the dress circle. Thence she could have 
got readily to the box. 32 Eyewitness Thomas H. Sherman, who 
had climbed onto the stage, speaks of Miss Keene as "the only cool 
person there." She said, by Sherman's account, "For God's sake, 
gentlemen, be quiet; keep cool." She helped a man up over the 
side of the box and sent for a pitcher of water. Sherman does not, 
however, mention her presence in the box. But eyewitnesses 
Helen Truman, E. A. Emerson, and Dr. Charles A. Leale (who, 
after the vestibule door was opened, entered the box from the 
dress circle to offer such medical aid as might be possible) agree 
that Miss Keene was there. 

30 Boston Globe, Apr. 11, 1915. 

31 A. C. Clark, "Abraham Lincoln in the National Capital"; pp. 107-108. Minne- 
apolis Journal, Apr. 27, 1914. 

32 Washington Star, May 16, 1865. New York Clipper, May 20. Testimony of Mad- 
dox and Simms at the Conspiracy Trial. 


On the night of the 14th, Seaton Munroe, a lawyer having an 
office on Fifth Street opposite the City Hall, was walking along 
Pennsylvania Avenue with a friend when suddenly a man ran 
down Tenth Street, calling out, "My God! The President is killed 
at Ford's Theatre!" Munroe started for the theater, and there, he 
says, encountered Laura Keene. ". . . Her hair and dress were in 
disorder, and not only was her gown soaked with Lincoln's blood, 
but her hands, even her cheeks where her fingers had strayed, were 
bedaubed with the sorry stains!" The weight of evidence seems to 
be that Lincoln bled very little if at all while in the theater be- 
cause of the clot that gathered around the orifice of the wound. 
Dr. Charles Taft said that at the Petersen house the wound had to 
be kept "free from coagula." Blood was on the yellow satin cos- 
tume worn by the brunette Miss Keene, but it was Major Rath- 
bone's. "I am sorry to say," commented W. J. Ferguson, "that after 
this great tragedy, Miss Keene, in her travels throughout the coun- 
try, would exhibit this dress and claim that it was stained with the 
blood of the President." This was probably done in good faith and 
is hardly deserving of Ferguson's strictures. 

A Capt. Silas Owen, described as commanding officer of the 
U.S.S. Primrose, an eyewitness at Ford's that night, says that the 
dark man "clambered down the side of the box" and that Mrs. 
Lincoln, leaning over the box's edge, called out to the audience, 
"They have shot pa!" ("I remember the homely phrase so well," 
the Captain avers, with apparent seriousness.) As if this were not 
enough, the reminiscent sea-dog relates that "Mrs." Keene was 
standing irrelevantly between boxes and lowered curtain, that the 
dark man "dragged himself up to her," and that she, extending 
her hands toward him, asked, "What have you done, John?" The 
insidious fellow thereupon thrust at her with his dagger and cried, 
"Sic semper tyrannis!" 33 

Other eyewitnesses are equally imaginative, if less amusing. 
One W. H. Roberts of Findlay, Ohio, a cavalryman in the war, 
says the curtain was not rung up on "Our American Cousin" until 
after Lincoln was seated. 34 A Jennie Ross (Mrs. W. E. W. Ross) 
of Philadelphia is said to have been in the cast that night as Jennie 

33 Boston Sunday Journal, Sept. 22, 1895. 

34 New York Times, Feb. 13, 1927. 


Anderson (though no such name is on the playbill) and frequently 
to have recalled how Miss Keene climbed into the box and took 
the President's head in her lap. 35 It seems to be true that Miss 
Keene, after reaching the box, did support Lincoln's head; but 
that honor has likewise been claimed by a Mrs. Willard, who ex- 
hibited apparel with "large dark splotches" on it and stated that 
she occupied the box next to the President! 36 

One Myron Parker of Washington wrote to the Post of that city 
that he was in the audience at Ford's; that he neither saw any 
"undue commotion" nor heard any uproar. "Some emotional 
person did call out that the theater was on fire," he admitted (we 
do not learn of this elsewhere), "but this created no excitement, as 
some gentleman on the stage assured the audience that there was 
no cause for alarm. The audience then moved out of the theatre 
in the usual orderly manner." 37 

Athanasius against the world: others thought it an extraordinary 
occasion, but not the phlegmatic Mr. Parker. "Excited crowds 
during the war were nothing new to me," wrote Sea ton Munroe, 
"but I had never witnessed such a scene as was now presented. 
The seats, aisles, galleries, and stage were filled with shouting, 
frenzied men and women, many running aimlessly over one an- 
other; a chaos of disorder beyond control had any visible authority 
attempted to exercise it." 38 But Mr. Parker was quietly oblivious 
to it all. 

A Ford's playbill bearing the words 


The Performance will be honored by the presence of 


still is quite often accepted as genuine, although dealers and col- 
lectors have long known it to be a forgery, and a poor one at that. 
Originals carry at the bottom the imprint of Polkinhorn (D 
Street, near Seventh). Some lack the "Prices of Admission," which 

35 New York Times, Dec. 29, 1924. 

36 New York Post, Apr. 6, 1936. 

37 Post, Feb. 19, 1917. Clark, "Abraham Lincoln in the National Capital"; pp. 217- 

38 North American Review, Apr. 1896. 

War Department photograph 

(Treasury Guard colors in center, above portrait) 


were dropped to make room for a quotation from the song "Honor 
to Our Soldiers." Typographical differences between genuine bills 
and the forgery are many and obvious. 

It was once proclaimed that a gentleman in Brooklyn, New 
York, was owner of a playbill stained with Lincoln's blood. He 
was said to have received it by gift from an uncle, a lawyer in 
Washington, to whom it had been presented by John T. Ford, 
"first man to reach the box after the fatal shot had been fired." 
Ford had picked it up near the rocking chair; and before he died, 
in November 1879, had signed an affidavit to that effect. Terming 
this a "rare bit of humor," Ford— who still was active as a man- 
ager, and who lived until March 14th, 1894— explained that at 
the time of the murder he was in Richmond (whither he had gone 
on a personal errand). He had, he said, identified a playbill for "a 
gentleman living in the North," but could state "most emphat- 
ically" that it had no bloodstains on it. 

Lincoln's blood seemed to hold peculiar interest for the gory- 
minded. A clerical memorandum, with a few words added by the 
President on April 14th and signed "A. L.," was retrieved from the 
archives of the Treasury Department. A newspaper reporter hap- 
pened to see it and gave out that Lincoln's blood had spotted it. 
There is no evidence that Lincoln had the memorandum on his 
person when he was shot; and the alleged bloodstains were noth- 
ing but what is termed "foxiness"— the result of age and dampness. 

A glib radio talker is on record as having informed the world 
that the Jewelers' Association of America, in convention at Wash- 
ington at some time during 1865, passed a resolution to this ef- 

RESOLVED, that from and after this date all signs of dummy 
watches or clocks, indicating the jeweler's business, shall show on their 
face the hands pointing to that time, 22I/2 minutes after eight — 

the said time being that at which Lincoln had entered the theater. 
The said time is impossible, inasmuch as Major Rathbone stated 
in his affidavit that it was not until "about twenty minutes after 
eight o'clock" that Miss Harris and he left their residence at Four- 
teenth and H Streets to join the President and Mrs. Lincoln in 
the carriage. 

This is only an old fiction in a new guise. There used to be a 


flamboyant piece that told why the big watches on posts, long the 
watch repairer's common sign, had their painted hands at eight- 
eighteen. At precisely that moment, it appeared, Booth had shot 
Lincoln— "so always that dumb horologe reads eight-eighteen!" In 
other words, Lincoln was shot before he had entered the theater. 
Many dumb horologes have been fixed unchangingly at approxi- 
mately twenty minutes after eight; and the reason was that this 
spread of the hands made a balanced arrangement and gave room 
for advertising. 

But at just what time did John Booth fire the shot? Dr. Robert 
K. Stone, the Lincolns' family physician, summoned by Mrs. Lin- 
coln to the Petersen house, said it was "about a quarter past 10" 
when he reached the President. This is manifestly incorrect. Eye- 
witness J. P. Ferguson said it was somewhere near ten when he 
saw Booth leaning against the wall of the dress circle near the 
vestibule door. Eyewitnesses J. B. Stewart and Dr. Charles Taft 
practically coincide: Taft says the shot was at half-past ten, and 
Stewart testified that at about half-past ten the sharp report of a 
pistol— "evidently a charged pistol"— startled him. 

Nicolay and Hay give "... a few minutes past ten," David H. 
Bates places it at ten-twenty. None of the three was present. Nico- 
lay had left Washington for a trip to Cuba; Hay was at the Execu- 
tive Mansion; Bates was on night duty at the telegraph office of 
the War Department. John E. Buckingham, doorkeeper at Ford's, 
who had opportunity to consult the lobby clock from time to 
time, told an interviewer for the Washington Star: "I should say it 
was about twenty minutes after ten o'clock, and I was putting away 
my checks and tickets and getting ready to close up when the show 
was over, when I heard the noise of a pistol shot." 39 If we put the 
fateful moment in the interval from "about" ten-twenty to 
"about" ten-thirty, we shall not be far wrong; but we have no war- 
rant for being more precise. 

The ball entered the skull about midway between the left ear 
and the median line of the back of the head— but doctors disagreed 
as to where it lodged. In the anterior part of the left side of the 
brain— so testified Dr. R. K. Stone; and his statement was followed 
by Nicolay and Hay. Within a half-inch of the right eye— so testi- 

39 Apr. 14, 1903. 


fied Surgeon-General J. K. Barnes, whose assistant, Doctor Wood- 
ward, performed the autopsy in Barnes' presence. Woodward, it 
was stated, found the ball behind the orbit of the right eye. Re- 
porting the autopsy, the Intelligencer said: 40 "The course of the 
ball was obliquely forward toward the right eye, crossing the brain 
in an oblique manner, and lodging a few inches behind that eye." 

How far was it from box to stage? Figures range from fourteen 
feet (Laughlin) to "about seven" (D. H. Bates). "Some ten feet," 
said Miss Chapman, eyewitness; eyewitness Doctor Taft said 
twelve feet. Twelve feet was also the reckoning of W. J. Ferguson, 
who was more or less familiar with the theater. The lower boxes 
opened not far above the level of the stage. One correspondent de- 
scribed them as "scarcely more than loopholes" and observed: 

The apertures which appear above the stage are about three feet 
square. Consequently the boxes immediately above them are elevated 
but a short distance above the stage, a distance which any one could 
easily leap, even were his nerves not freshly braced from the commis- 
sion of a murder. 41 

It was testified by Harry Ford that when working in the box on 
Friday afternoon he called for a hammer and nails; that Spangler 
tossed up two or three nails "and handed me the hammer up from 
the stage." For men of average height, with fairly long arms, nine 
feet would be about the limit at which this could be done. After 
the shooting, a pitcher of water was handed up from the stage. 

In his affidavit, Major Rathbone gave the height of the box 
above the stage, including the balustrade, as "about ten or twelve 
feet." Probably eleven feet from the cushion of the balustrade to 
the stage would be a fair guess. "It was a high leap," say Nicolay 
and Hay. Not for Booth— at least John T. Ford did not think so; 
Ford had seen Booth introduce leaps equally high— "extraordinary 
and outrageous" leaps— into dramatic performances ("Macbeth," 
for example) and make them "with apparent ease." It had been 
rumored in the press that "the leap of Booth from the box to the 
stage had been rehearsed," 42 but Ford dismissed the idea. "I 

40 Apr. 17, 1865. 

41 Philadelphia Inquirer, Apr. 17, 1865; p. 1 (special Washington dispatch of the 

42 See the Washington Weekly Chronicle, May 13, 1865; p. 5. 


should not think a rehearsal of it was needed," he said. "He 
[Booth] was a very bold, fearless man. . . . He excelled in all manly 

How did Booth "leap"? The common idea— fostered, no doubt, 
by the drawing Albert Berghaus made for Frank Leslie's— has been 
that, in W. J. Ferguson's words, he "mounted the box railing" 
(balustrade) and jumped. This is improbable. Major Rathbone 
stated that Booth leaped over the balustrade, not from it and that 
he "went over upon the stage." He placed both hands on the 
balustrade and "swung over," W. H. Taylor said. J. P. Ferguson 
testified that Booth put his left hand on the balustrade and seemed 
to be striking behind him with a knife held in his right. "I could 
see the knife gleam," Ferguson said, "and the next moment he was 
over the box. As he went over, his hand was raised, the handle of 
the knife up, the blade down." Rathbone, Taylor, and J. P. Fer- 
guson are thus agreed that Booth vaulted the low balustrade. Rath- 
bone, again trying to seize him, grasped at his clothing. There was 
neither time nor opportunity for a spectacular descent. Booth 
placed his hands on the cushion of the balustrade; then partly 
turned, drew back his right hand to strike at Rathbone with the 
knife, and, supported by his left arm, swung his legs over the 
balustrade and dropped. 

He seemed not to spring but to tumble onto the stage. Mrs. 
J. B. Wright, who sat in the fourth row of the orchestra said: "He 
landed in a kneeling posture, his left knee resting on the stage." 
Many in the audience quite naturally wondered where he had 
come from and what he was supposed to be doing. Major Rath- 
bone believed that the elapsed time between shot and vault did 
not exceed thirty seconds. It probably was much less. No doubt 
most of those that heard the report of the pistol imagined it to be, 
as Doctor Taft wrote, "an introductory effect preceding some new 
situation in the play." And now this dark man came hurtling into 
the gleam of the footlights, his back slightly toward the audience, 
and appeared to crumple on the floor. It was a strange apparition 
to be launched into the midst of Asa Trenchard's homespun 

Booth had swung his legs to his right, toward the central pillar. 


Across the front of the pillar and projecting well above the bal- 
ustrade hung a framed engraving of George Washington— an 
added touch to the decorative scheme. Above this, from a staff 
fixed to the pillar, depended the blue-and-white regimental colors 
of the Treasury Guard. Back of these was a draped lace curtain. 
It was a collection of obstacles that proved John Booth's undoing. 
He struck the picture frame, breaking a piece from the molding 
and knocking the picture around so that it faced inward, and— 
possibly in trying to avoid the picture— he put his right foot into 
the Treasury Guard's colors. 

"The blue, or regimental color, was torn by the spur of the 
assassin catching in it as he leaped from the box to the stage," 
said an editorial note in Washington's National Republican.^ 
At the time of the inspection of Ford's by the Military Commis- 
sion, the Washington Star stated: 

The stage is almost precisely in the condition it was at the moment 
of the assassination. The scene (third act "American Cousin") is set as 
at that moment. . . . The box used by Mr. Lincoln bears the same pic- 
ture of Washington at its front, and a couple of flags are draped over 
the box [that is, the balustrade] as then, but not the Treasury Guards' 
flag, which caught Booth's spur on that occasion. 44 

Frank Leslie's sent Berghaus, a staff artist, to Washington to 
make sketches in connection with the murder. It published an 
engraving made from one of his sketches, with the title: "Flag in 
front of the President's box at Ford's Theatre, Washington, torn 
by the assassin as he leaped down to the stage." 45 The engraving 
shows the Treasury Guard's colors with a rent in the lower edge 
and the fringe torn and hanging. 

On May 31st Harry Ford testified as follows: 

Q. Do you know whether Booth's spur caught in one of the flags as 
he leaped from the box? 

A. I heard that it caught in the blue flag in the centre; I do not 
know it. [He was in the box-office when Booth vaulted to the stage.] 

Q. Who put that flag there? 

A. I did; it was the one obtained from the Treasury building. 

43 Apr. 20, 1865; P- 2. 

"Star of May 16; quoted in New York Clipper of May 20. 

45 May 20; p. 141. 


He added: 

I found two flags which I looped up and placed in position; then an- 
other flag came down from the Treasury Department and I altered 
them, putting the new flag in the centre. [The first two, each on a staff, 
were placed at either side of the box.] 46 

James R. Ford arranged for the loan of the Guard's colors, and 
they were brought by an employee of the Treasury who assisted 
Harry Ford in draping them. 

James P. Ferguson's testimony, as correctly reported, was this: 

Q. Did Booth's spur catch in the flag? 

A. His spur caught in the flag that was stretched around [the 
balustrade of] the box. There was also a flag decorating this post. His 
spur caught in the blue part of it. I thought it was a State flag at first, 
by the looks of it. ... As he went over, his spur caught in the mould- 
ing that ran round the edge of the box, and also in this flag, and tore a 
piece of the flag. . . , 47 

Maj. Emory S. Turner of the Treasury Guard was deputed to 
remove and take charge of the regimental colors. They were borne 
in procession when Lincoln's body was taken from the Executive 
Mansion to the Capitol on April 19th. (The military escort was 
limited to the regular Army and the Marine Corps, so that the 
Treasury Guard did not march as such, but clerks and other em- 
ployees of the Treasury Department joined in the civic proces- 
sion.) When the Treasury Guard was disbanded, Major Turner 
retained the colors, which eventually came into the possession of 
the Lincoln Museum. Turner stated that it was in this flag Booth 
caught his spur. 

In spite of this and other evidence, a United States flag hanging 
in a case in the Treasury Building, and showing no rent, was long 
exhibited as the flag in question. When it fell into acute disre- 
pair, congressmen interested themselves in preserving it as such. 
It may have been at one time the national ensign carried by the 
Treasury Guard— each regiment having, of course, both national 
ensign and regimental colors; although it appears to have been 
promoted from the machinist's room in the building to its later 
place of unwarranted distinction. Rhetorical allusions to "Old 

46 Weekly Chronicle, June 10; p. 4. 

47 Poore, vol. i, pp. 192-193. 


Glory" as the Nemesis of Booth have undoubtedly been mis- 
placed. Booth's spur may possibly, as J. P. Ferguson believed, have 
caught in the large flag spread like bunting along the balustrade, 
or even in the lace curtain, but it was portrait and Treasury Guard 
colors that joined to trip him. 

What, if anything, did Booth shout, and when did he shout it? 
According to W. J. Ferguson, who has been much quoted by vari- 
ous writers, he shouted nothing at all. According to next day's 
Intelligencer he shouted thrice— "Sic semper tyrannis!" ("This 
be ever the fate of tyrants," state motto of John's beloved Vir- 
ginia) at the edge of the box; "Revenge!" as he crossed the stage; 
and "I have done it!" as he disappeared. Between these extremes 
is considerable variety. Immediately after the shot, he uttered (in 
the box), said Rathbone, "some word which deponent thinks was 
'Freedom.' " Eleven witnesses (Truman, Hawk, Taylor, Emerson, 
Mrs. Wright, Knox, McGowan, J. P. Ferguson, Doctor Todd, Ex- 
Governor Farwell, even the impervious Mr. Parker) heard him 
exclaim, "Sic semper tyrannis!" But when? Two say it was before 
he vaulted; three, while he was in the air; six, as he rose to his 
feet on the stage. 

Three of these also heard him cry out something about the 
South— "Revenge for the South!" as he vaulted; "The South shall 
be free!" or "The South is avenged!" from the stage. "Brandishing 
a dagger, he shrieks out, 'The South is avenged,' and rushes 
through the scenery"— so wrote Miss Chapman, who heard nothing 
else. He "landed on the stage, brandishing his knife, exclaiming 
what sounded to me like 'Revenge' or 'Avenged' "—thus T. H. 
Sherman, who also heard nothing more. In all this evidence there 
is variance sufficient to make us realize the swift audacity of that 
crowded moment, unison sufficient to convince us that "Sic semper 
tyrannis!" was indeed no myth. John Booth, as he himself later 
wrote, did shout these words that he must often have read on the 
seal of Virginia blazoned upon the pages of the Richmond Daily 
Whig. But it is not likely that he shouted them, as he imagined, 
before he fired. 

It has been represented that on the fatal April 14th Lincoln 
had requested extraordinary protection at the theater and his re- 


quest nefariously had been denied. If the reference is to Stanton's 
attitude about releasing Major Eckert to go with the Lincolns, it 
must be said that, besides the Stantons, seven other persons, in- 
cluding Robert Lincoln, are known to have been invited; and all 
began with one accord to make excuse. Robert had no better rea- 
son than that he wished to "turn in early"— which, by the way, he 
did not do; for when a crowd burst into the Executive Mansion 
with the dreadful news of murder, he and Major Hay "sat gossip- 
ing in an upper room." 48 Some of the others pleaded that they 
were too fagged or were leaving town. Eckert, had he gone, would 
have been a guest as would the others— not a sentry or a detective. 
Even Eckert's friend and associate David Bates said it was idle to 
conjecture whether Eckert's presence in the box would have made 
any difference. Stanton was firm in discouraging Lincoln's theater- 
going, and Eckert respected Stanton's wishes. 

Lincoln asked for no further protection on that April night 
than that of Charles Forbes, the footman-attendant, and of a spe- 
cial guard such as had been provided since November 1864 by a 
detail from the Metropolitan Police. John Parker, to whom the 
duty fell, had recently been chosen by Superintendent Richards 
to fill a vacancy in that detail. It was usual for the President to 
confirm such appointments, but Lincoln was in City Point and it 
appears that Mrs. Lincoln was called upon to act for him in this 
matter of household routine. The draft had previously interfered 
with arrangements in the Executive Mansion, as we learn from 
Hay's plaint that "William Johnson (cullud) was taken while 
polishing the Executive boots and rasping the Imperial Abolition 
whisker. Henry Stoddard is a conscript bold." 49 It was therefore 
found desirable to have this special detail exempted from the draft 
and certificates of appointment were furnished to the provost 
marshal of the District, who had authority in such matters. Ex- 
emption was thus obtained in usual course for Parker, who had 
previously enlisted at the time of the President's call for troops 
from the District. 

Prior to November 1864, Forbes had been Lincoln's only regu- 
lar escort. Therefore it might well have been supposed that on the 

48 W. R. Thayer, "The Life of John Hay," vol. i, p. 219. 

49 From a letter to the absent Nicolay (Aug. 7, 1863). 


night of April 14th, 1865, Lincoln was better protected in the 
theater than he had been at any time up to November 1864— that 
is, during by far the greater part of the war. William H. Crook 
was ready to accompany the President that night, but the Presi- 
dent would not hear of it and was quite content with the unsea- 
soned John Parker, of whom he could have known nothing and 
who unfortunately was not at all of suitable caliber. 

Parker duly watched over the Lincolns and their guests from 
carriage to box. His orders (according to Crook) were then to 
stand, fully armed, in the little vestibule and keep any "unauthor- 
ized person" from going further. The theater had been accus- 
tomed to place a chair there for the special guard's convenience, 
and Parker evidently occupied it for a while. We know that during 
an intermission— Coachman Burke thought it was after the first 
act— both Parker and Forbes left their posts, went out to get a 
drink, and were gone for at least ten minutes. Hence we need not 
be surprised to learn, through Parker's own acknowledgment to 
Crook, that, hearing the voices of the players but unable to see the 
action, Parker finally took an empty seat in the dress circle. (In 
"Through Five Administrations," Crook was made to say that it 
was "at the front," but in the later "Memories of the White 
House" this became "the last row.") Hanscom, editor of the Na- 
tional Republican, who came up to the dress circle with a "dis- 
patch" for the President, wrote that at that time there was neither 
guard, watchman, sentinel, nor usher at the vestibule door and he 
thought anyone might have passed. He was referring, however, to 
the outside of the door; he did not (as Lieutenant Crawford 
wrongly supposed) go in and give the document to the President 
but handed it to Forbes, whose seat was in the fourth row of 
section A, immediately in front of the door. 50 

It does not appear whether Parker had an understanding with 
Forbes, nor can we be sure as to precisely where he was when the 
dark man came edging around the dress circle.The special guard 
was not on post— that is all we know. It is possible that the dark 
man was aware of this. From the words of Captain McGowan or 
of Surgeon Todd of the Montauk, both of whom sat near, it is 
plain that he made no attempt to sneak in unobserved. On the 

60 Republican, June 8, 1865; p. 2. Plan of dress circle (McLellan Collection). 


contrary, he very deliberately presented a card to Charles Forbes. 
Todd is quite explicit: 

... I turned my head to look at him. He was still walking very slow, 
and was near the box door, when he stopped, took a card from his 
pocket, wrote something on it, and gave it to the usher [Forbes], who 
took it to the box. 51 

Dr. Charles A. Leale, who sat (he says) in the dress circle, about 
forty feet from the box, even mentions a slight commotion at the 
vestibule door and asserts: 

With many others I looked in that direction, and saw a man en- 
deavoring to persuade the reluctant usher [Forbes] to admit him. At 
last he succeeded in gaining an entrance, after which the door was 
closed and the usher resumed his place. 52 

Various canards and gossip quickly found their way into the 
press. Thus the Evening Bulletin of Philadelphia said: 53 

A sentinel was placed in the passage way to the private box occupied 
by the President. Before the performance commenced, Booth passed 
this sentry by giving the name of some Governor. These facts are de- 
rived from an authentic source. 

Even Harper's Magazine for June said, in its "Monthly Record 
of Current Events": 

He stood for a few moments near the door of the passage, near which 
was no one who knew him. He then went to the door. As he was open- 
ing it, the sentinel asked him if he knew what box he was entering. He 
coolly replied that he did; it was the box of the President, who wished 
to see him. He entered the passage and fastened the door behind him. 

In the archives at Washington is a statement by Herold— of no 
more value than most of what poor Davy had to say— to the effect 
that Booth showed "a letter" to a "soldier or officer" who barred 
his way, and the man at once allowed him to pass! Undoubtedly 
there always were men ready to intrude upon Lincoln, even on 
such occasions as this; Lincoln and his attendants were used to 
them; but what made this letter a "wand of magic power"? 

51 Todd letter, State Historical Society of Wisconsin. 

62 "Lincoln's Last Hours"; p. 8. 

53 Apr. 17; p. 3 (from the third ed. of the 15th). 


Townsend had his version: 

... A young man, so precisely resembling the one described as J. 
Wilkes Booth that he is asserted to be the same, appeared before the 
open door of the President's box, and prepared to enter. 

The servant who attended Mr. Lincoln said politely, "this is the 
President's box, sir, no one is permitted to enter." "I am a senator," 
responded the person, "Mr. Lincoln has sent for me." The attendant 
gave way, and the young man passed into the box. 

Simple, is it not? But where did Townsend obtain it? Obviously 
not from John Booth. From Forbes? Forbes was not so unreserved 
with any other newspaperman. Besides, Forbes was not in the box 
—he was sitting in the dress circle, by the vestibule door, where 
Crawford, McGowan, Hanscom, Todd, and Leale saw him. 

On May 1st, 1865, formal notice was served upon Parker that 
a charge of neglect of duty had been preferred against him by 
Superintendent Richards to the Board of Metropolitan Police. It 
was specified that "said Parker was detailed to attend and protect 
the President Mr Lincoln, that while the President was at Fords 
Theatre on the night of the 14 of April last, Said Parker allowed 
a man to enter the Presidents private Box and Shoot the Presi- 
dent." Richards and "Chs. Forbs at Presidents House" were 
named as witnesses. 54 

Parker's trial by the Board was held, according to official state- 
ment, on the afternoon of May 3rd at the Board's office, 483 Tenth 
Street. We do not know what the witnesses testified nor what de- 
fense Parker offered. Records of the trial are unfortunately miss- 
ing, with other records of the period, from the Police Depart- 
ment's broken files, which have suffered through past lack of 
adequate housing and custody. It is the honest student, as Gama- 
liel Bradford pointed out, 55 who is hampered by this kind of defi- 
cit. "The partisan and the scandal-monger remain wholly indif- 
ferent." All we know now is that the trial was in camera, after the 
usual manner of such procedure, and that the complaint was dis- 
missed on June 2nd, 1865. Parker, Crook thought, "looked like a 
convicted criminal" next day and "was never the same man after- 

"From records of the Metropolitan Police Department. 
65 "Confederate Portraits"; p. 124. 


Mrs. Elizabeth Keckley, a Negro modiste who was often in the 
Executive Mansion and in whom Mary Lincoln seems to have 
confided, says 56 that Mrs. Lincoln, fancying in her distress that 
Parker had been involved in a conspiracy, had him brought to 
her and furiously accused him of having been a party to the Presi- 
dent's murder. "I shall always believe," she cried, "that you are 
guilty!" Nothing, however, is known to justify the suggestion. No 
matter on what technical grounds he may have been acquitted, 
Parker (like John M. Lloyd, who also had been a member of the 
force) was feckless and drunken, and utterly wanted Crook's high 
sense of responsibility. His general history as an officer was unde- 
niably bad and must have weighed against him when at last in 
1868 he was summarily dismissed for sleeping while on duty. But 
that he was a conspirator or in the pay of conspirators, there is 
neither evidence nor likelihood. 

Not much can be said for the attendant Charles Forbes. He 
made, not at the time but so late as September 17th, 1892, when 
he appears to have been living in Washington, an affidavit whose 
whole effect is to shake confidence in the man's essential trust- 
worthiness. For example, he swears that Mrs. Lincoln, Miss Harris, 
and Major Rathbone went together from the Executive Mansion 
to the theater, and that the carriage then was sent back for the 
President. As a matter of fact, we know that no less than five per- 
sons saw the President with Mrs. Lincoln in the carriage as it was 
driven from the Executive Mansion to call for Miss Harris and 
her fiance* at Senator Harris' residence (Fifteenth and H Streets). 

This incidentally disposes of Forbes' assertion that the last bit 
of writing Lincoln did was a signature on a photograph at Forbes' 
request. Furthermore, the statement made by Forbes that he "was 
in the box when the assassin fired his fatal shot" is not only im- 
plicitly contradicted by eyewitnesses but categorically denied by 
Major Rathbone's affidavit, sworn to on April 17th, 1865, which 
says the box "was occupied by the President and Mrs. Lincoln, 
Miss Harris and this deponent, and by no other person." (A popu- 
lar history of the United States has Tad in the box at Ford's, 
though he is known to have been at Grover's, viewing "Aladdin.") 

""Behind the Scenes"; pp. 193-195. 


Parker's dereliction must be conceded. Crook all his days la- 
mented that in the hour of need one of the little group of special 
officers had failed the President. But we also may ask: Why was 
Charles Forbes so remiss as to grant entrance to the dark man, 
whose wild appearance and restive behavior already had caused 
many eyes to follow him? We need not "hint a shame." Both 
Parker and Forbes belonged to the President's immediate house- 
hold, with which Edwin M. Stanton had nothing to do. For 
Parker's appointment to the special guard the head of the Met- 
ropolitan Police was directly responsible. 

There was a slight interruption in telegraphic service from 
Washington during that terrible April night. Inasmuch as em- 
phasis has been laid on this interruption as a suspicious circum- 
stance, it may be well to refer to the examination of T. T. Eckert, 
before the Committee on the Judiciary, May 30th, 1867. (Eckert, 
it will be remembered, was chief of the War Department's tele- 
graph staff at the time of the murder.) 

Q. Did you have any knowledge of the telegraph lines at or about 
the time of the assassination of President Lincoln? 

A. I did. 

Q. Was there any interruption of the lines that night? 

A. Yes, sir. 

Q. What was it? 

A. It was my impression at the time [that] they were cut, but we got 
circuit again very early the next morning. The manager of the Com- 
mercial office reported the cause to have been the crossing of wires in 
main batteries. Throwing a ground wire over the main wires would 
have caused the same trouble, and taking it off would have put it in 
ordinary working condition. 

Q. Was there an investigation into what was the real cause of the 

A. No, sir. It did not at the time seem to be sufficiently important, 
as the interruption only continued about two hours. I was so full of 
business of almost every character that I could not give it my personal 
attention. The interruption was only of a portion of the lines between 
Washington and Baltimore. We worked our City Point line all the 

Q. Do you know whether the Commercial lines were interrupted at 
that time? 


A. Yes, sir. It was only the Commercial lines that were interrupted; 
it was in the Commercial office and not in the War Department 
office. . . . 57 

The notion that "government experts," under the direction of 
Stanton or Major Eckert or both of them, tampered with commer- 
cial telegraph lines, is utterly frivolous. It is on a par with the 
statement of a trashy compilation issued soon afterward that at 
exactly twenty minutes after ten on the night of April 14th 
twenty-two "conspirators" severed twenty-two wires leading from 
the War Department to forts and outposts. 

It should be remembered that the telegraph was in 1865 a com- 
paratively recent invention, the first line— between Washington 
and Baltimore— having been opened in 1844. In March 1857 
Charles A. Tinker, then operator in the Tazewell House, Pekin, 
Illinois, and later one of the War Department's cipher operators 
during the Civil War, had explained to Abraham Lincoln the 
practical workings of "the new and mysterious force." On March 
5th, 1865— the day after Lincoln's second inaugural— messages were 
sent direct from New York to San Francisco, and this was con- 
sidered a remarkable feat, the length of wire being the greatest 
ever worked over in one circuit. "The wires worked well," com- 
mented the Intelligencer, "though it rained at several points on 
the line." Thomas A. Edison gave numerous amusing reminis- 
cences of an operator's trials and difficulties in those days of faulty 
equipment, when reception was at times so interrupted that he 
had to conjecture or invent one-fifth of the "press report." Tem- 
porary suspension during the night of April 14th was purely a 
coincidence, without sinister meaning, and Eckert's statements 
make the circumstances sufficiently intelligible. 

The murder of Abraham Lincoln was the dramatic high spot of 
the nation's history, leaving the performance upon the stage "a 
vague phantasmagoria" in the memories of those that saw and 
heard it, and the performers "the thinnest of specters." 

The awful tragedy in the box makes everything else seem pale and 
unreal. Here were five human beings in a narrow space — the greatest 
man of his time, in the glory of the most stupendous success in our 

CT Fortieth Congress, 1st session, House Report No. 7; p. 673. 


history, the idolized chief of a nation already mighty, with illimitable 
vistas of grandeur to come; his beloved wife, proud and happy; a pair 
of betrothed lovers, with all the promise of felicity that youth, social 
position, and wealth could give them; and this young actor, handsome 
as Endymion upon Latmos, the pet of his little world. The glitter of 
fame, happiness, and ease was upon the entire group, but in an instant 
everything was to be changed with the blinding swiftness of enchant- 
ment. Quick death was to come on the central figure of that company 
— the central figure, we believe, of the great and good men of the 
century. Over all the rest the blackest fates hovered menacingly — fates 
from which a mother might pray that kindly death would save her 
children in their infancy. One was to wander with the stain of murder 
on his soul, with the curses of a world upon his name, with a price set 
upon his head . . .; the stricken wife was to pass the rest of her days 
in melancholy and madness; of those two young lovers, one was to 
slay the other, and then end his life a raving maniac. 58 

To a certain occasion when the natives struck banefully at them 
in the darkness, the old Spanish conquerors of Mexico gave the 
name Noche Triste, or sorrowful night. The night of Good Friday 
in 1865 was the Noche Triste of the national capital, bringing in 
its train " Black Easter" to the city and to loyal hearts throughout 
the North. 

08 Nicolay and Hay, vol. x, p. 295. 



WHERE was John Booth? Apparently in a dozen places. He 
was seen repeatedly in Pennsylvania— on a train from Reading to 
Pottsville, at Tamaqua, at Greensburg, at Titusville. The man at 
Greensburg, a Pittsburg dispatch said later, "is reliably stated 
not to be him." At Titusville the suspected person turned out to 
be John G. Stevens of Trenton. A mob of townsfolk was bent on 
shooting or hanging him, but after he had been identified by de- 
tectives he made a speech from a window of the hotel. While 
traveling, J. L. Chapman of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, was de- 
tained on three separate occasions in one day because of a strong 
resemblance to the fugitive. Daniel Hughes, a Brooklyn saloon- 
keeper, thought Booth had been in the Hughes establishment. 
The Chicago police apprehended J. F. Nagle, an actor at Mc- 
Vicker's Theater. 

At Urbana, Ohio, a mustached gentleman said to the bellhop 
who was ushering him to a room in the hotel: "Is this window on 
an alley, or is there any way to get out of here?" The bellhop 
forthwith decided that the man (who later proved to be a railway 
official visiting the town on business) must unquestionably be 
Booth, and for a time all Urbana was in an uproar. An officer on 
a gunboat at Point Lookout, Maryland, was reported to have said 
that Booth and about twenty other conspirators were at large in 
St. Mary's County and that a cavalry squad had had a "collision" 
with them. Two men and a woman were arrested at Norfolk, 
Virginia, and a man was followed by detectives from Detroit to 
St. Mary's, Ontario, and there taken into custody. Fifteen miles 
south of Baltimore a man was captured who "answered almost 



identically the description of Booth." Preparations were accord- 
ingly made for his safekeeping in Washington, "but it was sub- 
sequently ascertained that the person arrested, although bearing so 
singular a resemblance to the criminal, was quite another party." 

In his "Fifty Years in Theatrical Management," M. B. Leavitt 
tells that he was thought by many to bear "a striking facial and 
physical resemblance" to Booth, who as an actor had impressed 
him profoundly. "I was, perhaps, four or five years younger than 
Booth," Leavitt says, "and he was slightly taller, but in a gen- 
eral way we were enough alike to have been mistaken for each 
other. On one occasion, this likeness came nearly getting me 
mobbed by an excited crowd, who thought that in me they had 
the slayer of President Lincoln among them." This was at East- 
port, Maine, where he had arrived with a minstrel troupe for a 
two nights' engagement. He says he was followed to the hotel by a 
throng that refused to disperse until he had made a speech from 
the veranda. 1 

Leavitt in his book sets his portrait beside that of John Booth. 
As we compare them, we realize how superficial was the "re- 
semblance" needed to persuade those whose knowledge of Booth's 
appearance was gained from crude engravings or printed descrip- 

The Washington Weekly Chronicle said editorially: 2 

"So thoroughly was the national vigilance aroused . . . that no 
man who bore a remote resemblance to the doomed assassin could 
safely venture beyond the precincts of his immediate home. . . . 
In Pennsylvania half-a-dozen innocent parties have been held for 
'identification;' and it is impossible to tell how many men of the 
proscribed physiognomy have fallen under the ban of suspicion. 
This sharp scrutiny originated in an earnest and patriotic motive 
that cannot be too highly commended. ... It must be acknowl- 
edged, however, that in some cases there have been unwise and 
unjust manifestations of the popular feeling." 

Gossip was that Booth had been "overtaken some miles out on 
the road leading from Seventh street road"— that a "prominent 
military officer" had obtained the Navy Department's consent to 

lp P- H9> 154-155- 

2 May 13, 1865. 


allow the miscreant to be placed on a gunboat. All this was later 
contradicted. A dispatch said it was "pretty certain" that the slayer 
had been traced to the wretched little county town of Port 
Tobacco in Charles County, Maryland, "whence he probably in- 
tends to cross into Virginia." It was admitted, however, that 
Marylanders who had been arrested did not "throw much light 
upon the subject." 3 

Patrol boats of varied sorts were ordered to the lower Potomac, 
the Patuxent, and the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. They were to 
overhaul and fully examine all suspicious-looking craft. Fisher- 
men were not to be allowed to cross the Potomac in either direc- 
tion between the Maryland and Virginia shores. The Philadelphia 
Evening Bulletin of Monday the 17th had this item: 

At General Augur's headquarters, at noon, there was a very confident 
hope that Booth will be arrested before to-morrow. The reasons for this 
belief it would be imprudent to publish. 

On orders from Washington, all steamers and railway trains 
leaving New York were searched, and a sharp lookout was kept on 
passengers entering New York from southward. "The detectives," 
said the Evening Post, "are firm in their belief that Booth has 
not arrived here, and incline to the opinion that he is still in 

The notion that he might be within the limits of the District 
had been growing in many quarters. It was deemed remarkable 
that he continued to elude a host of detectives, both professional 
and amateur. Some guessed that he might have escaped to such 
Confederate lines as remained— might have found refuge with 
Mosby the guerrilla, who no doubt had been acting in concert 
with him. Yet hearsay was that an interview had taken place at 
Berryville, east of Winchester, between Mosby and General 
Chapman (First division, 19th army corps) and officers of the re- 
spective commands; that Mosby and his officers denounced Lin- 
coln's murder as a calamity to the South, and declared that if 
apprehended within their lines the murderer would promptly be 
handed over to the Federal authorities. Hence many turned to 

3 Philadelphia Inquirer, Apr. 18. Intelligencer, Apr. 20. 


the argument that Booth lurked in some hiding place in Wash- 

True, Sergt. Silas T. Cobb, on duty that Friday night at the 
Washington end of the Navy Yard bridge, had his story of the 
two horsemen who crossed into the newly rising light of the 
moon. The first, he said, rode a bay "with a shining skin"— a 
horse that had been pressed to its full speed. The sentry challenged 
him, for it was now after ten-thirty and the latest orders were 
that after nine in the evening no one should be passed without 
the approval of the sergeant of the guard. For the most part, those 
allowed to cross were teamsters or persons on necessary business. 
The rider seemed calm enough to the eye of Sergeant Cobb, who 
gave an account of a dialogue something like this: 

"Who are you, sir?" 

"My name is Booth." 

"Where are you from?" 

"The city." 

"Where are you going?" 

"I'm going home." 

"And where is your home?" 

"In Charles" [that is, in Charles County]. 

"What town?" 

"I don't live in any town." 

"Oh, you must live in some town." 

"No, I live close to Bean town but not in the town." 

"Why are you out so late? Don't you know you're not allowed to 
pass after nine o'clock?" 

"That's news to me. I had business in the city and thought if I 
waited I'd have the moon to ride home by." 

There were three or four minutes of this. The horseman was 
quiet and conciliatory. In telling the story, Cobb said: "I thought 
he was a proper person to pass— and I passed him." 

In not more than ten minutes a second rider was halted at 
the bridge and the Sergeant questioned him. He replied that his 
name was Smith, he was going home, and his home was in White 
Plains, another hamlet in Charles County. When Cobb asked him 
why he was out so late, he answered something to the effect 
that he had been in bad company, speaking in so flippant a man- 
ner that the Sergeant did not at first pass him but brought him 


up before the guardhouse door. There the light fell squarely 
across his face and on the medium-sized roan horse. The inspec- 
tion must have convinced the Sergeant that this was some harm- 
less fellow who might better be in White Plains than roaming 
the streets of Washington; and he, too, was passed. 

A while afterward, a third horseman rode up and inquired 
of Sergeant Cobb whether a roan horse had crossed the bridge, 
describing horse, saddle, and bridle with particularity before 
saying anything about a rider. Yes, such a horse had crossed, Cobb 
told him, and the rider had given his name as Smith. The third 
horseman appears not to have been catechised as to his name or 
what had brought him there. Was it possible for him to cross? 
he asked. Yes, Cobb said— possible to cross but impossible to get 
back. The Sergeant evidently felt that this cavalcade over his 
bridge might as well end; and, besides, the third man did not 
reveal any business that struck Cobb as important, but turned his 
horse around and rode away slowly up Eleventh Street. This 
was Silas Cobb's narrative of the two horsemen who crossed— and 
of the third horseman, who said, "I won't go." 

At about one o'clock on Friday afternoon, Davy Herold and 
beetle-browed George Atzerodt, the carriagewright of Port To- 
bacco, had gone to Thompson Nailor's livery stable at 299 E 
Street (north). Atzerodt had with him a bay mare that he left 
at the stable; and Davy engaged a light-colored roan horse for 
about four o'clock that same afternoon. John Fletcher, Nailor's 
foreman, already was acquainted with both Atzerodt and Herold. 
On April 3rd, Atzerodt and another man (presumably John Sur- 
ratt) had brought two horses to be put up at Nailor's. These 
horses, though they had been claimed by Surratt, really belonged 
to Booth's string, and Booth had paid for their keep at various 
stables. One of them was the dark bay, blind of an eye, which 
Booth had purchased from George Gardiner, Dr. Samuel Mudd's 
neighbor down in Charles County. Atzerodt had taken this horse 
away on April 12th, and the other was sold. While the animals 
were stabled at Nailor's, Herold had frequently gone there to 
inquire for Atzerodt, and Fletcher had seen Herold and At- 
zerodt riding together. 


When Herold came for the roan at four, Fletcher told him not 
to keep the horse out later than nine. At ten, Atzerodt came for 
the mare. 

"If this thing happens tonight," he said to Fletcher, with boozy 
incoherence, "you'll get a present." 

"Your friend," Fletcher reminded him, "is staying out very late 
with our horse." 

"Oh, he'll be back after a while," Atzerodt replied, and rode 
away to the Kirkwood House. 

But Herold did not return; and, convinced that the roan would 
be stolen, the foreman went out to look around the streets. At 
Pennsylvania Avenue and Fourteenth Street he saw Davy and 
the missing property, and he shouted: "You get off that horse 
now— you've had it long enough!" Herold paid no attention. 

. . . He put spurs into the horse and went up Fourteenth street as 
fast as the horse could go. I kept sight of him until he turned east into 
F street. Then I returned back to the stable, and I saddled and bridled 
a horse and went after him. I knew that Atzerodt had to cross the Navy 
Yard bridge, and that this Herold was an acquaintance of his. I knew 
he [Atzerodt] had to cross the bridge to go to his home [in Port To- 
bacco]. 4 

So, on this chance, Fletcher had ridden down to the head of 
the Navy Yard bridge at Eleventh Street (east). He had urged 
his horse to the bridge, but now he rode slowly back into town; 
and, in a forlorn hope, he asked the foreman of another stable 
whether the roan had been brought there. 

"No," said the man, "but you'd better keep in, for President 
Lincoln has been shot and Secretary Seward is almost dead." 

Whereupon Fletcher made for his own stable, put the horse in 
its stall, and sat down just outside the office window. Among the 
excited people that drifted by, he heard somebody saying that "it 
was men riding on horseback that had shot President Lincoln." 
This roused anew the weary Fletcher's suspicions. He walked out 
to Fourteenth Street and inquired of a cavalry sergeant whether 
any stray horses had been picked up. The man said they had, and 
suggested that Fletcher go to the headquarters of the Metropolitan 
Police on Tenth Street. Fletcher accordingly reported at head- 

4 Fletcher's testimony at the Surratt Trial ("The Reporter," vol. iii, p. 7). 


quarters, 483 Tenth Street, and told his story; and they set down 
his name among "Names of the Witnesses who made Statements 
relative to the Assassination of the President." 

From there a detective took him to General Augur's head- 
quarters, where he gave the General a description of Herold. By 
that time it was two o'clock of the morning of April 15th. Beside 
Augur's desk lay a saddle and a bridle, and Fletcher knew them. 
They had been on the dark-bay horse, blind of one eye, when 
Atzerodt took it from Nailor's on April 12th. Fletcher told Gen- 
eral Augur about this, too, but had trouble with Atzerodt's name, 
which (or at least some form of it) had to be obtained from 
Nailor's files. 

It seemed that a Lieutenant Toffey had found the dark-bay 
horse near Lincoln Branch Barracks, some three quarters of a 
mile east of the Capitol, and had brought it to the headquarters 
of General Augur. But this was not the horse on which either 
Herold or Atzerodt had ridden away from Nailor's stable, and the 
Branch Barracks were a mile from the Navy Yard bridge. Who 
had been riding the horse, and why had it been abandoned? It 
was all a puzzle— a puzzle that John Fletcher, his adventure over, 
resigned to General Augur and the General's associates. 

Silas Cobb's account of the three horsemen might mean much 
—or little. Herold had taken the roan horse from Nailor's stable; 
but was he certainly the second rider across the Navy Yard bridge? 
Was it even positive that Booth was the first? On Tuesday the 
18th the Intelligencer, Washington's most conservative newspaper, 
had this front-page article: 



Yesterday a light-colored sack coat, fully answering to the description 
of that worn by the attempted assassin of the Messrs. Seward, was found 
near Fort Saratoga, which is situated on the north of the city, not far 
from the Soldiers' Home. The coat was stained with blood. In one of 
the pockets were found a false mustache and a small brush. 

The coat and the articles found in it were delivered at the Provost 


Marshal's office. It is believed that this discovery will furnish an addi- 
tional clue to the route of the criminal. The circumstances would seem 
to throw discredit on the commonly received theory, (at least as to one 
of them,) that the suspected parties crossed the Navy Yard bridge on 
Friday night. 

To be sure, the first horseman had given his name as Booth; 
but it was almost incredible that the real Booth would do that. 
A more plausible view was expressed in the conservative Evening 
Post of New York, which printed this from its regular Washington 
correspondent: 5 

There are many intelligent persons who believe that Booth still lurks 
in some hiding place in Washington. The detectives generally believe 
that the horsemen who rode in haste over the Navy Yard bridge on the 
fatal Friday night were decoys, and that Booth was not one of them. 

It was openly asserted in Washington's Intelligencer and Repub- 
lican (Hanscom's paper) that Booth was hiding in the District 
and that every house within its borders ought to be searched. 
Superintendent Richards was of the same mind, but complained 
that he had no authority and that Mayor Wallach gave him no 
support. To this the Mayor replied that, as head of the Metropoli- 
tan Police, Richards took orders not from him but from the 
Police Commissioners. 

A letter from Boston informed the Secretary of War that Booth 
was secreted in Washington "up stairs in a concealed closet" but 
at times went out "in the disguise of a negro." From New York, 
"Justice" wrote to suggest: "Perhaps he is in bed, with the cap 
and nightgown of a female, feigning sickness." The notion of 
feminine disguise was advanced by many, and various changes 
were rung upon it. A Philadelphian urged that Ford's Theatre be 
ransacked for hiding places and for secret passages to neighbor- 
ing houses. 6 

The Mayor ordered that "all drinking saloons and places where 
liquor is sold" be closed and remain closed until after the Presi- 
dent's funeral. Artemus Ward had written: 

Washington, D. C, is the capital of our once happy country, if I may 
be allowed to koin a frase. The D. C. stands for Desprit Cusses, a 

B Apr. 21; p. 3. 

6 Baker, "History of the United States Secret Service"; pp. 548-554. 


numerosity of which abounds here, the most of whom persess a Ro- 
mantic pashun for gratitious drinks. 

Knowing his city, the Mayor was determined to keep it for the 
time being as sober as possible. The Intelligencer observed: 

THE HABILIMENTS OF MOURNING are everywhere exhibited, 
and the deep grief universally felt is perhaps nowhere made more 
manifest. Scarcely a window or doorway in the city but is covered with 
crape. Yet these outside symbols but faintly express the poignant re- 
gret and profound humiliation of the community at an act so atrocious. 

Each day, mingled with announcements of Thoreau's "Cape Cod" 
and the second volume of Lyman Beecher's autobiography, the 
Washington press carried advertisements of black crepe, black 
alpaca, black mousseline, black gloves. 

Called from New York by Stanton, Col. L. C. Baker, head of 
the National Detective Police, arrived in Washington on Sun- 
day morning, April 16th. "Well, Baker," was Stanton's greeting, 
"they have now performed what they have long threatened to do. 
You must go to work." Those who already were in the field were 
not at all disposed to share with Baker the clues they might have. 
The trail was cold and he must work alone. 

Colonel Baker had many enemies in his own day and by cer- 
tain subsequent writers has been presented as an unrelieved vil- 
lain. As a matter of fact he was a skillful and fearless detective but 
by nature high-strung, waspish, and aggressive; in the performance 
of his thankless duties he incurred the dislike of many to whom 
he refused to show favor. Under emergency conditions Baker hit 
sharply and effectively at bounty-broking and bounty-jumping, at 
gross irregularities in the army, at miscellaneous evils. He stepped 
upon many toes, was accused of being another Fouche, wrote in 
his own defense the badly titled "History of the United States 
Secret Service." When quick action was desired and others 
seemed resourceless, it was to Baker that Stanton turned. 

Others of the alleged conspirators were rounded up— Arnold 
was brought from Old Point, O'Laughlin was arrested in Balti- 
more; Atzerodt, who had been deputed to kill Vice-President 
Johnson and had registered at the Kirkwood House, lacked stom- 
ach for this enterprise and, after wandering aimlessly about the 


city, betook himself to Montgomery County, Maryland, where he 
was seized at the house of a cousin named Richter. Spangler was 
easily found at his boarding-house. 

Mrs. Surratt and all under her roof were arrested in the dead 
of night, and, as it strangely happened, Paine was apprehended 
at the same time and place. While the officers were within, Paine 
came to the door. He carried a pickax on his shoulder and wore 
a cap improvised from the sleeve of a shirt or a fragment of un- 
derwear. Mrs. Surratt had sent for him, he said, to dig a gutter, 
and he had come to inquire when he should start work in the 
morning. According to the officer in charge, Mrs. Surratt denied 
that she knew the man or had sent for him; and he was arrested 
as a suspicious character. Not until later did the authorities dis- 
cover that they had bagged a prize— the formidable desperado who 
had swept through the house of the Secretary of State, leaving 
wreck behind. It was Paine who had ridden and then abandoned 
the bay horse, blind of one eye, that Lieutenant Toffey had found 
near Lincoln Branch Barracks. He seems to have been without 
funds, and he drifted back to Washington, only to walk into the 
open arms of the War Department. 

Weichmann, eventually a storm center of discussion, appears 
to have saved his life by now becoming the prosecution's chief 
witness. One of the other inmates of Carroll prison said to him 
in jest: 

"Weichmann, do you know that some one in room 37 is going 
to be taken out tonight and hanged?" 

Feeling his neck, Weichmann answered, "I am in 37— and if it 
was me, I would rather be shot than hanged!" 

Tom Smart, one of the deputy keepers at Carroll prison, said 
that Weichmann was the most frightened witness he had ever 
seen and probably knew as much about the murder as any one 
of the "conspirators." Whatever we may think of this, we cannot 
wholly disregard the words of the Confederate emissary Augustus 
Howell, who in an unpublished holograph statement wrote: 

. . . Weichman allso states he never gave any information from his 
Books — that allso is false, he gave me information and said it came 
from his Books in his office ... he obtained his office in the War De- 
partment with the express understanding with Surratt that he W 


was to furnish Surratt with all information that came under his notice 
from time to time to be transmitted South — and he did furnish it yet 
he loved his Government. . . . 

he . . . rec d dispatches for Surratt from Booth and took charge of 
the whole business [of the abduction plot] in Surratts absence yet he 
knew nothing of their intention or their business, now will any Sensi- 
ble man contend that Booth would have trusted a matter of such great 
importance and Risk to himself in Weichmans hands unless he had a 
perfect understanding about the matter with Weichman 7 

Edward V. Murphy of Washington, afterward for many years 
official reporter to the United States Senate, was a member of the 
Military Commission's official reporting staff at the Conspiracy 
Trial. On the basis of a first-hand acquaintance with the day-by- 
day course of the trial, he believed Mrs. Surratt innocent, and 
Atzerodt and Paine the only defendants likely to have been sen- 
tenced to death in a civil court. He knew Weichmann, with whom 
he had attended the Philadelphia High School, and recognized 
him in the office of Col. H. L. Burnett, Special Judge Advocate of 
the Commission. Murphy stated: 8 

The following morning I saw Weichmann in manacles being es- 
corted by an armed guard of soldiers to the War Department. The next 
day I learned that he was charged with being in the conspiracy to mur- 
der the President. 

Weichmann knew he was dangerously vulnerable at some point- 
that much is evident. Only thus can we explain the ingenious flu- 
ency with which he swore away the life of a woman who had be- 
friended him. 

Jennie Gourlay's benefit was never given; but Miss Gourlay 
said that Good Friday's performance was not actually the last in 
Ford's. By order of the War Department the company was as- 
sembled to present "Our American Cousin" behind closed doors, 
the object apparently being to determine whether collusion had 
been possible between John Booth and those on the stage. Official 
photographs were made to record the stage-set and the front of 
the box as each had looked when the shot was fired. Soldiers of the 

7 In the John T. Ford Papers. 

8 New York Times, Apr. 9, 1916, magazine section; pp. 8-9. 


Veteran Reserve Corps were kept on guard in the building, yet 
stories were current, worthy of Sue or Gaboriau, that somewhere 
in its rambling confines or, it might be, in passages beneath it, 
John Booth still prowled. 

It was said that on Good Friday morning all the other boxes 
had been engaged by persons unknown. "The question now 
arises," maintained the Cincinnati Gazette of April 20th, "who 
rented the boxes, and did it not naturally arouse suspicions on 
the part of somebody connected with the theatre, to know that 
all the boxes were rented and yet not occupied? Events will soon 
determine these mysteries." 

The three Ford brothers were haled to the Carroll prison and 
it was believed in the family that the health of James R. Ford 
was definitely affected. Included in the John T. Ford Papers are 
many notes throwing new light on the rigors of Washington's 
military prisons, on the implacable Stanton, on the bitterness that 
sprang up in the wake of the murder. Harry Ford, who in after 
years declared he "would not have missed the experience for a 
great deal," said the Carroll was filled with a rare mixture— 
bounty-jumpers, deserters, prisoners of state, "men of every sta- 
tion." He remembered April 19th, when, after the funeral cere- 
monies in the East Room of the Executive Mansion, Lincoln's 
body was escorted to the Capitol, there to lie in state in the ro- 
tunda. "I could see nothing," he said, "but could hear the solemn 
booming of guns, the dismal beating of muffled drums, playing 
dead marches, and the steady tramp of feet. . . . We did not know 
but the people in their excitement would mob the prison and 
lynch us, for some of the men arrested had been stoned in the 
streets." 9 

Spirited out of Cincinnati, "June" Booth came to Philadelphia 
only to be arrested. Edwin Booth retired from the stage but his 
life was threatened. A guard was placed in Asia's house. "Doc" 
Booth, just back from an Australian trip, was jailed in New York. 
John S. Clarke was imprisoned. The newspapers, Asia wrote bit- 
terly, "teemed with the most preposterous adventures, and eccen- 
tricities, and ill deeds of the vile Booth family. The tongue of 
every man and woman was free to revile and insult us." 

9 New York Evening Post, July 8, 1884. 


In the latter part of November 1864 John Booth had left with 
the Clarkes a packet whose contents were unknown to them but 
which at his request was put in safekeeping. In January 1865 
he asked for and returned it. After the murder, Asia opened the 
packet and, having destroyed "an envelope with a man's name 
upon it," turned over the remainder of the contents to her hus- 
band. There were United States 5-20 bonds in the amount of 
$3,000; $1,000 in Philadelphia municipal "sixes"; an assignment 
of oil land in Pennsylvania to Junius; a note for Mary Ann Booth; 
and a letter that was delivered to Marshal Millward of Phila- 
delphia, who immediately gave it to the press. This letter, written 
at the time when John Booth began to devote himself in earnest 
to the abduction plot, is the longest and most elaborate piece of 
writing we have from him, and it gives us, in both matter and 
style, an understanding of the ferment at work in him. 10 

, , 1864 

MY DEAR SIR: You may use this as you think best. But as some may 
wish to know when, who, and why, and as I know not how to direct, I 
give it (in the words of your master) 

"To whom it may concern:" 

Right or wrong, God judge me, not man. For be my motive good or 
bad, of one thing I am sure, the lasting condemnation of the North. 

I love peace more than life. Have loved the Union beyond expression. 
For four years have I waited, hoped, and prayed for the dark clouds to 
break, and for a restoration of our former sunshine. To wait longer 
would be a crime. All hope for peace is dead. My prayers have proved as 
idle as my hopes. God's will be done. I go to see and share the bitter 

I have ever held the South were right. The very nomination of Abra- 
ham Lincoln, four years ago, spoke plainly war — war upon Southern 
rights and institutions. His election proved it. "Await an overt act." 
Yes, till you are bound and plundered. What folly! The South were 
wise. Who thinks of arguments or patience when the finger of his 
enemy presses on the trigger? In a foreign war, I, too, could say, "Coun- 
try, right or wrong." But in a struggle such as ours (where the brother 
tries to pierce the brother's heart), for God's sake choose the right. 
When a country like this spurns justice from her side she forfeits the 

"The text here introduced is based on that in Forney's War Press (Philadel- 
phia), Apr. 22, 1865. See "The Unlocked Book" (pp. 124-125) and J. S. Clarke's 
affidavit before Judge Advocate Turner, May 6, 1865 (in the archives of the 
Judge Advocate General). 


allegiance of every honest freeman and should leave him, untrammelled 
by any fealty soever, to act as his conscience may approve. People of 
the North, to hate tyranny, to love liberty and justice, to strike at wrong 
and oppression, was the teaching of our fathers. The study of our 
early history will not let me forget it, and may it never. 

This country was formed for the white, not for the black man. And, 
looking upon African slavery from the same standpoint held by the 
noble framers of our Constitution, I, for one, have ever considered it 
one of the greatest blessings (both for themselves and us) that God 
ever bestowed upon a favored nation. Witness heretofore our wealth 
and power; witness their elevation and enlightenment above their race 
elsewhere. I have lived among it most of my life, and have seen less 
harsh treatment from master to man than I have beheld in the North 
from father to son. Yet, Heaven knows, no one would be willing to do 
more for the negro race than I, could I but see a way to still better their 
condition. But Lincoln's policy is only preparing a way for their total 
annihilation. The South are not, nor have they been, fighting for the 
continuation of slavery. The first battle of Bull Run did away with 
that idea. Their causes since for war have been as noble and greater far 
than those that urged our fathers on. Even should we allow they were 
wrong at the beginning of this contest, cruelty and injustice have made 
the wrong become the right, and they stand now (before the wonder 
and admiration of the world) as a noble band of patriotic heroes. Here- 
after, reading of their deeds, Thermopylae will be forgotten. 

When I aided in the capture and execution of John Brown (who was 
a murderer on our western border and who was fairly tried and con- 
victed before an impartial judge and jury, of treason, and who, by the 
way, has since been made a god) I was proud of my little share in the 
transaction, for I deemed it my duty, and that I was helping our com- 
mon country to perform an act of justice. But what was a crime in poor 
John Brown is now considered (by themselves) as the greatest and only 
virtue of the whole Republican party. Strange transmigration! Vice 
to become a virtue, simply because more indulge in it! 

I thought then, as now, that the Abolitionists were the only traitors 
in the land and that the entire party deserved the same fate as poor 
old Brown, not because they wished to abolish slavery, but on account 
of the means they have ever endeavored to use to effect that abolition. 
If Brown were living I doubt whether he himself would set slavery 
against the Union. Most, or many in the North do, and openly curse 
the Union, if the South are to return and retain a single right guaran- 
teed to them by every tie which we once revered as sacred. The South 
can make no choice. It is either extermination or slavery for them- 
selves (worse than death) to draw from. I know my choice. I have also 
studied hard to know upon what grounds the right of a State to secede 


has been denied, when our very name, United States, and the Declara- 
tion of Independence, both provide for secession. 

But there is no time for words. I write in haste. I know how foolish 
I shall be deemed for taking such a step as this, where, on the one side, 
I have many friends and everything to make me happy, where my pro- 
fession alone has gained me an income of more than twenty thousand 
dollars a year, and where my great personal ambition in my profession 
has such a great field for labor. On the other hand, the South have 
never bestowed upon me one kind word: a place now where I have no 
friends, except beneath the sod; where I must either become a private 
soldier or a beggar. To give up all of the former for the latter, besides 
my mother and my sisters whom I love so dearly (although they so 
widely differ from me in opinion) seems insane; but God is my judge. 
I love justice more than I do a country that disowns it; more than fame 
and wealth; more (Heaven pardon me if wrong), more than a happy 

I have never been upon a battlefield; but oh! my countrymen, could 
you all but see the reality or effects of this horrid war, as I have seen 
them (in every State, save Virginia,) I know you would think like me, 
and would pray the Almighty to create in the Northern mind a sense 
of right and justice (even should it possess no seasoning of mercy) and 
that He would dry up the sea of blood between us, which is daily 
growing wider. Alas! poor country, is she to meet her threatened doom? 

Four years ago I would have given a thousand lives to see her remain 
(as I had always known her) powerful and unbroken. And even now I 
would hold my life as naught to see her what she was. Oh! my friends, 
if the fearful scenes of the past four years had never been enacted, or 
if what has been had been but a frightful dream from which we could 
now awake, with what overflowing hearts could we bless our God and 
pray for His continued favor! How I have loved the old flag can never 
now be known. A few years since and the entire world could boast of 
none so pure and spotless. But I have of late been seeing and hearing of 
the bloody deeds of which she has been made the emblem, and would 
shudder to think how changed she had grown. Oh! how I have longed 
to see her break from the mist of blood that circles round her folds, 
spoiling her beauty, and tarnishing her honor. But no, day by day has 
she been dragged deeper and deeper into cruelty and oppression, till 
now (in my eyes) her once bright red stripes look like bloody gashes on 
the face of Heaven. I look now upon my early admiration of her 
glories as a dream. My love (as things stand to-day) is for the South 
alone. Nor do I deem it a dishonor in attempting to make for her a 
prisoner of this man, to whom she owes so much of misery. 

If success attends me, I go penniless to her side. They say she has 
found that "last ditch" which the North has so long derided, and been 
endeavoring to force her in, forgetting they are our brothers, and that 


it is impolitic to goad an enemy to madness. Should I reach her in 
safety and find it true, I will proudly beg permission to triumph or die 
in that same "ditch" by her side. 

A Confederate doing duty upon his own responsibility. 


"To whom it may concern" is obviously an allusion to Lincoln's 
executive order of July 18th, 1864, which began with those words 
and was issued on the occasion of Horace Greeley's ineffectual 
negotiations with the Confederate commissioners at Niagara Falls. 
Booth did not aid in the capture of John Brown, for Brown was 
already a prisoner when Booth reached Charlestown. It is cer- 
tainly not true that the South had never bestowed "one kind 
word" on Booth, although it was on the Northern stage during 
the war years that his talent developed. The phrase "A Confeder- 
ate doing duty upon his own responsibility" means, if it means 
anything, that Booth was not acting under instructions from 
the Confederate government or from any Confederate official or 

Even then, it appears, the American public was not to be denied 
its tidbit of romantic interest. From Washington the New York 
Tribune learned: 

The unhappy lady — the daughter of a New England Senator — to 
whom Booth was affianced, is plunged in profoundest grief; but with 
womanly fidelity, is slow to believe him guilty of this appalling crime, 
and asks, with touching pathos, for evidence of his innocence. 11 

It was asserted by friends of the senator that there had been no 
engagement— not even a tentative one. "There is no truth in the 
statement, nor the slightest foundation for it." . . . , said a let- 
ter to the Boston Advertiser. But Edwin Booth wrote to Asia: "I 
have had a heart-broken letter from the poor little girl to whom 
he had promised so much happiness." 12 This would seem definite 
enough, though we may take no stock in the reports that Booth's 
fiancee declared her readiness to be married to him, even at the 
foot of the scaffold. Elizabeth Hale, usually referred to as Lizzie 
or Bessie— afterward Mrs. Kinsley, later Mrs. Jaques— has some- 
times been mentioned as the lady involved. There is good reason, 

"Apr. 22. 

""The Unlocked Book"; p. 127 (English ed.). 


however, for believing it was not she but her sister Lucy (subse- 
quently the wife of Senator William E. Chandler of New Hamp- 

Another lady, however— a lady with no influential friends to 
protect her— was discovered by the press. It was told that Ella 
Turner (whose right name was said to be Starr), of 62 Ohio 
Avenue, took chloroform on April 15th and when found was 
"apparently asleep." When she could not be roused, several physi- 
cians were called in and remedies were applied. On reviving, Ella 
asked for Booth's picture, hidden under her pillow, and informed 
the doctors that she did not thank them for saving her life. 13 

In the archives of the Judge Advocate General one of the papers 
found among John Booth's effects is this brief, hurried missive, 
tucked away with statements, affidavits, and all the other mis- 
cellany of a famous case: 

My darling Baby 

Please call this evening as soon as you receive this note I will not de- 
tain you five minnits for gods sake come 

yours truly 

E S 
if you will not come 
write a note the reason why 
Washington Feb 7th [i]865 

This, we may conclude, was from Ella Starr, whose orbit never 
crossed Miss Hale's, whose literacy did not extend to spelling 
God with a capital, but who wished to die when Johnny Booth 
fled. She was subpoenaed for the Conspiracy Trial, and W. E. 
Doster, counsel for Atzerodt and Paine, saw her then and de- 
scribed her as "a rather pretty, light-haired, little woman." 14 It 
was decided that her evidence would not be "very much to the 
point" and she was not required to take the stand. 

A cipher code was in Booth's trunk at the National Hotel 
—one of the official Confederate ciphers, identical with that found 
by Assistant Secretary Dana at Richmond in the office of J. P. 
Benjamin, Confederate Secretary of State. Howell, the Confeder- 

13 Commercial Advertiser (New York), Apr. 17. 

14 "Lincoln and Episodes of the Civil War"; p. 276. The note was sent to the 
National Hotel at a time when John was absent from Washington. 

". . . My acquaintances 

claimed he [Booth] bore a 
striking facial and physical re- 
semblance to myself. I was, 
perhaps, four or five years 
younger than Booth, and he 
was slightly taller, but in a 
general way we were enough 
alike to have been mistaken 
for each other." 

M. B. Leavitt in his "Fifty 
Years in Theatrical Man- 

Look here, upon this picture, 
and on this" . . . 


(Booth above, Leavitt at the 


ate agent, had taught that cipher to Weichmann, and no doubt 
Booth obtained it from the same source. In each instance, Howell 
knew his man. During the Conspiracy Trial, Weichmann, when 
cross-examined by Frederick Aiken (of counsel for Mrs. Surratt), 
admitted that he had learned the cipher from Howell but said he 
did not know it was used at Richmond and that all he had em- 
ployed it for was to write out one of Longfellow's poems. 

The story was current that an attempt had been made to kill 
Grant as he rode toward Philadelphia that Friday night. Accord- 
ing to Lamon, Grant himself said: 15 

Only a few days afterwards I received an anonymous letter stating 
that the writer had been detailed to assassinate me; that he rode in my 
train as far as Havre de Grace, and as my car was locked he failed to 
get in. He now thanked God he had so failed. I remember very well 
that the conductor locked our car door; but how far the letter was 
genuine I am unable to say. 

Grant was in a carefully guarded private car and was accompanied 
not only by Mrs. Grant but by Beckwith, his cipher operator. If 
any attempt had really been made, it would surely have been re- 
ferred to by Beckwith in his "Memoirs of Grant's Shadow." 16 
The anonymous letter must have been the work of a crank. It 
cannot be shown that Booth detailed anybody to travel with 
Grant; and the notion is no longer tenable that in those hours 
Booth was merely acting for others in some vague, far-reaching 

A curious item did, however, appear in the New York Tribune: 

A well-known citizen of Baltimore committed suicide last Monday, a 
short distance from this city, by shooting himself with a pistol. No 
cause could be assigned for the rash act except that he had recently 
seemed depressed and melancholy. 

Subsequent events have induced the suspicion that he was in some 
way implicated in the conspiracy, and last night the body was exhumed, 
embalmed, and sent to Washington by orders of the Government. 

The affair causes much speculation, and there are many reports in 
connection with it, as well as some facts, which it is deemed imprudent 
to publish at present. 17 

15 "Recollections"; p. 279. 

16 In the New York Sun, Apr. 6, 13, 20, 27, 1913 (edited by W. R. Lee). 

17 Apr. 29. 


This is confirmed by Maj. H. B. Smith, who says: "The suicide 
was buried in Greenmount Cemetery, and in the darkness of 
night we dug up the body as mentioned by the Tribune. This was 
the only time I ever acted the part of a ghoul." 18 The man had 
presumably been connected with the abduction plot and, in view 
of what had happened to those other Baltimoreans O'Laughlin 
and Arnold, he feared arrest. But John Booth and Davy Herold 
both had vanished and the net seemed to be spread for them in 

In Lower Maryland a small army of pursuers milled about. It 
is unnecessary for us now to go into all the minutiae of what they 
did and might have done. After a week they picked up the trail 
of Booth and Herold, only to see it fade out into blankness. Years 
were to pass before the mystery was removed, and even then some 
minor questions remained unanswered. 

Improbable as it might have seemed, the man who gave the 
name Booth to Sergeant Cobb that Friday night at the Navy 
Yard bridge was actually Booth. "Smith," on the roan horse, was 
Herold. Booth crossed the low wooden bridge— an old structure 
that in 1861 had been virtually rebuilt to carry the weight of 
artillery— and not far from the other (or Uniontown) end he 
turned to the left and climbed the long stretch of Good Hope Hill. 
Below him, Washington was already seething with the news of 
murder, but soon he would be going down into the comparative 
security of Lower Maryland. 

We do not know just where Herold overtook him. They went 
along what was called the old T. B. road, by Silver Hill, and rode 
together up to the door of Lloyd's barroom in the Surratt house 
at Surrattsville. Because of the condition of his left leg, Booth did 
not dismount. The leg was now swollen and painful, and he was 
sure he had injured it when he made that awkward landing on 
the stage. 

When the abduction plot was ripening, John Surratt had left 
two carbines and some rope with Lloyd. He had gone with Lloyd 
to an unfinished room at the back part of the house and shown 

18 "Between the Lines"; p. 310. 


him how these things could be hidden there. The drunken and 
irresponsible Lloyd afterward testified that Mrs. Surratt had 
warned him, when Louis Weichmann drove her to Surrattsville 
on the afternoon of April 14th, to have the shooting-irons ready 
because they would be needed that evening. Inasmuch as Lloyd 
was sodden with drink at the time— or, as the native phrase had 
it, "right smart in likker"— little reliance should be placed in 
him; and after the murder he, like Weichmann, was in mortal fear 
for his neck. It clearly was shown that Mrs. Surratt went to 
Surrattsville because obliged to go on a business errand connected 
with money due her. She took with her a bundle of papers dealing 
with this matter, and also a package that she handed to Mrs. 
Emma Offutt, Lloyd's sister-in-law, remarking that she had been 
asked to leave it there. It is highly improbable that she had any 
inkling of what was to be attempted that night. 

Her sympathies were, no doubt, with the Confederacy. John 
Surratt was a runner for it; Isaac, John's brother, was in its army. 
Atzerodt and Paine, to be sure, visited the Surratt boarding-house 
on H Street and made themselves at home in it; but if they looked 
rather ferocious, with their revolvers, their bowie knives, and 
their scowls, so did plenty of others in Washington. Mrs. Surratt 
might well have taken them to be no more than associates of John 
in the pastime of eluding Federal detectives. But even if she had 
been cognizant of an abduction plot, that would be quite different 
from having part in the murder. "She kept the nest where the egg 
was hatched"— such is the epigram credited to Andrew Johnson. 
What egg} 

This night of the 14th, Davy Herold took a drink out to Booth, 
and got from the befuddled and sleepy Lloyd one carbine and the 
package. Then, with thirteen miles between them and Washing- 
ton, the horsemen started for Doctor Mudd's. Their way lay 
through the hamlet of T. B. and along the T. B. road to the 
point where it crossed Mattawoman Swamp; thence by the road 
that led past St. Peter's Church. This meant turning toward the 
southeast instead of the southwest, toward the Patuxent instead 
of the Potomac, and delay was risky; but Booth felt he must have 
his leg examined. Had it not been for his accident, he would not 


have gone anywhere near Mudd's house and Mudd would not have 
been caught in the web that Louis Weichmann and others helped 
to intwine about him. 

In the dark of early morning there was a knock at Mudd's door. 
It was about four o'clock, he said. 

I was aroused by the noise, and as it was such an unusual thing for 
persons to knock so loudly, I took the precaution of asking who were 
there before opening the door. After they had knocked twice more, I 
opened the door, but before doing so they told me they were two 
strangers on their way to Washington, that one of their horses had 
fallen, by which one of the men had broken his leg. On opening the 
door I found two men, one on a horse led by the other man who had 
tied his horse to a tree near by. I aided the man in getting off his horse 
and into the house, and laid him on a sofa in my parlor. 

After getting a light, I assisted him in getting up-stairs where there 
were two beds, one of which he took. He seemed to be very much in- 
jured in the back, and complained very much of it. I did not see his 
face at all. He seemed to be tremulous and not inclined to talk, and 
had his cloak [Mudd also referred to this as "a heavy shawl"] thrown 
around his head and seemed inclined to sleep, as I thought, in order 
to ease himself; and every now and then he would groan pretty heavily. 

The younger man, Doctor Mudd said, gave his name as Huston 
and called his friend Tyser or Tyson. "Tyson" at first wore a 
mustache and whiskers and was extremely pale. When a photo- 
graph of Booth was shown, Mudd said he would not from any 
resemblance to the photograph think "Tyson" was Booth— "but 
from other causes I have every reason to believe that he is the 
man whose leg I dressed." On Saturday morning "Huston" bor- 
rowed a razor. After dinner the Doctor went up to see the patient, 
who kept his face partly turned away. Mudd noticed, however, 
that the mustache was now gone, though he could not say 
whether the whiskers were natural or false. 

(Many have questioned whether it was possible that neither 
the Doctor nor Mrs. Mudd recognized a man whom they had re- 
ceived as an overnight guest only a few months before— especially 
a man so individual as John Booth. Others, in view of the unusual 
conditions, accept Mudd's statement as given in good faith.) 

"Tyson" had wished to have the leg fixed up roughly, "as he 
said he wanted to get back, or get home and have it done by a 


regular physician." Mudd, hurrying more than he otherwise 
would have, made a splint by doubling a piece of an old bandbox. 

On examination I found there was a straight fracture of the tibia 
about two inches above the ankle. My examination was quite short, 
and I did not find the adjoining bone fractured in any way. I do not 
regard it a peculiarly painful or dangerous wound; there was nothing 
resembling a compound fracture. . . . 

I suppose in a day or two swelling would take place in the wounded 
man's leg; there was very little tumefaction in the wound, and I could 
discover crepitation very distinctly. It would be necessary to dress it 
again in two or three days if it were left in a recumbent posture; but 
if moved at a moderate rate, I do not know as it would aggravate it 
very much unless it was struck by something. 

The left boot was slit across the instep and removed. Written 
inside was the name J. Wilkes; and when later the boot was 
turned over to Lieutenant Lovett, this was a means of identifying 
Booth with the so-called Tyson. Doctor Mudd and an old Eng- 
lishman named Best who worked about the place, made a pair 
of rude crutches for the injured man's use. 

Before seeing Mudd's sworn statement, 19 from which the pre- 
ceding quotations have been made, the present writer submitted 
the evidence at hand to Dr. Isadore Zadek, well-known surgeon 
of New York. It is worthy of note that on this basis Doctor Zadek 
gave the following expert opinion regarding Booth's fracture: 

It appears to have been a transverse fracture of the left tibia, about 
two inches above the ankle; either incomplete or impacted. 

It is, therefore, altogether clear that no proper ground exists for 
repeated careless assertions either that the fibula was fractured or 
that the injury was to the right leg. (Townsend said, "The in- 
ferior bone of the left leg was broken vertically across." [!]) 
The boot removed by Doctor Mudd and preserved in the War De- 
partment, where it was examined by the present writer, is a high 
riding boot of a cavalry type then in vogue, and unmistakably 
designed for the left foot. Mudd got an old shoe and, cutting 
down the upper, prepared a covering to be worn in place of the 

On Saturday afternoon, between four and five o'clock, Booth 

18 In the archives of the Judge Advocate General. 


and Herold departed. At Herold's request, Mudd pointed out a 
short cut to Parson Wilmer's, but Wilmer's was not the travelers' 
real objective. Maps have traced with great exactitude their route 
across Lower Maryland; but as a matter of fact their course from 
Mudd's to Samuel Cox's, where they appeared about four o'clock 
on Sunday morning, is largely guesswork. Lost in the purlieus of 
Zekiah Swamp when Herold's knowledge of the country failed 
them, they were guided to Cox's along obscure trails by a Negro, 
Oswald ("Ozzie") Swann, whom Booth paid for his services. 

Samuel Cox at the beginning of the war owned a large tract of 
land, with a house of superior appearance for that region, and had 
from thirty to forty slaves. He commanded a volunteer company at 
Bryantown, and hence was known generally among his neighbors 
as Cap'n Cox. Thomas A. Jones, official agent in Maryland for 
the Confederate mails, was his foster brother. 

Later that Sunday morning Cox sent for Jones, and Jones rode 
over to see what was wanted. Cox told of the wayfarers who had 
arrived a few hours before, and said that his overseer, Franklin 
Robey, had taken them to a grove of short pines about a mile to 
the west, on land belonging to Michael S. Robertson. Booth, he 
said, had identified himself by the initials J. W. B. in India ink 
on his wrist. (Jones thought that, if Booth did not enter the 
house, a light must have been carried out.) Cox asked Jones to 
take care of Booth and Herold until they could be put across the 
river, and Jones promised to do so. 

For six days of chill and sullen weather the fugitives remained 
concealed in this little isle of safety. To Herold some freedom of 
movement was possible, but Booth, disheveled and in pain, lay 
stretched upon the damp ground. He was "exceedingly pale," 
Jones said, "and his features bore the evident traces of suffering. 
. . . Murderer though I knew him to be, his condition so enlisted 
my sympathy in his behalf that my horror of his deed was almost 
forgotten in my compassion for the man." Sometimes the thud of 
hooves and jingle of accouterments told of the near passing of 
cavalry but the nook was not searched. The two horses were, how- 
ever, a possible source of danger— a whinny from one of them 
might arouse the interest of the pursuers. They were accordingly 
led down into the marshland and there shot— presumably by 


Herold, as Cox told Jones. Pumphrey would never have his shin- 
ing bay again and Nailor's roan would not come back to the 

With the food he brought, Jones also brought newspapers. 
Booth's main concern seemed to be to learn what was said of his 
deed. Nearly the first question he put to Jones was about that, 
and Jones told him it was good news to most men of Confederate 
sympathies. (Jones himself thought so at first but later changed 
his mind.) He showed Jones the tattooed initials and declared he 
never would be taken alive. With the countryside full of soldiers 
and detectives, Jones could give him no assurance as to when it 
would be safe to cross the Potomac. 

Slim and wiry, Jones had a thin, melancholy poker-face and a 
drooping mustache, and he spoke with a kind of mournful drawl. 
In the barroom of the old Brawner House at Port Tobacco he 
encountered Capt. William Williams, who had come from Wash- 
ington in the pursuit; and the two drank. Eyeing Jones closely, 
Williams said: 

"I will give $100,000 to anybody who can tell me where Booth 

Looking steadily back at Williams with what Williams after- 
ward described as "that come-to- the-Lord-and-be-saved expres- 
sion," Jones replied, "That is a large sum of money and ought to 
get him if money can do it." 

The Confederacy was expiring without paying Jones a cent of 
the $2,300 it owed him for his services. He had invested $3,000 
in Confederate bonds, now worthless paper. The war, he admitted, 
had been a bad thing for him all the way through. But the old 
allegiance held, and the confidence reposed in him by Samuel Cox, 
"the best friend I ever had." "I did not know Booth," he said, 
"but when Cox put him in my keeping nothing would have 
tempted me to betray him." 

On the sixth day— Friday, April 21st— he was over at the hamlet 
of Allen's Fresh and there heard a cavalry officer say, "We have 
just got news that those fellows have been seen down in St. 
Mary's County." Knowing that the troops would consequently be 
ordered to that section, he hastened to inform the eager Booth 
that the time for crossing to Virginia had at last arrived. Jones 


had ready a lead-colored skiff and had instructed a Negro servant, 
Henry Woodland, to fish from it each day with gill nets and each 
day to return it to its hiding place in Dent's Meadow. Between 
high cliffs, then thickly wooded and covered with a dense growth 
of laurel, a stream flowed through this meadow to the river, and 
there in the long marsh-grass the boat was well hidden. 

The night was dark. Booth was lifted to Jones' horse; Herold 
walked alongside, Jones went fifty or sixty yards ahead. A stop 
was made at Jones' house and food was carried out. "None of the 
family noticed what I was doing," Jones said. "They knew better 
than to question me about anything in those days." Some three 
hundred yards from the river, Booth was helped to dismount, 
and from there he was supported down the rough path to Dent's 

Herold took the oars; Booth was placed in the stern, with an 
oar to steer by; and then Jones lit a candle and by its carefully 
shaded light pointed out on Booth's pocket compass the course to 
be followed. "Keep to that," he said, "and it will bring you into 
Machadoc Creek. Mrs. Quesenberry lives near the mouth of this 
creek. If you tell her you come from me, I think she will take care 
of you." Booth paid Jones $17 in greenbacks for the boat, 20 
saying, "God bless you, my dear friend, for all you have done for 
me." Jones gave the boat a shove— it glided away and was lost in 
the darkness. "I stood on the shore and listened," Jones said, 
"till the sound of the oars died away in the distance, then climbed 
the hill and took my way home, and my sleep was more quiet and 
peaceful than it had been for some time." 

The fugitives did not, however, reach the Virginia side that 
night. A strong flood tide carried the boat upstream, some twelve 
miles out of the way, and during the night Booth and Herold put 
into Avon Creek, a tributary of Nanjemoy Creek. In the morning 
Herold obtained food from the residence of Col. John J. Hughes 
at Nanjemoy Stores, and throughout Saturday he and Booth re- 
mained in concealment. That night they crossed. 21 They came up 

30 Frank Leslie's for May 20, 1865, had a cut of a boat for which it said Booth had 
paid $300. See Jones' "J. Wilkes Booth. An Account of His Sojourn in Southern 

21 One George H. Owen falsely said (archives of the Judge Advocate General) that 
he ferried them over for five dollars. 


into Gambo Creek, just above Machadoc Creek, in King George 
County, and Herold walked the mile to Mrs. Quesenberry's. Mrs. 
Quesenberry sent a meal to Booth; then Thomas Harbin (Jones' 
brother-in-law) and Joseph Badden acted as guides to the log 
cabin of William L. Bryant, a farmer living further inland. 
Bryant's place was reached about an hour before sundown, and 
there Booth rested. Herold explained that his soldier brother 
John, after having a leg broken in a fall from a horse, had been 
paroled to go home. For ten dollars Bryant agreed to convey the 
loquacious Herold and the close-tongued Booth to Dr. Richard 
Stewart's, about eight miles away. Doctor Stewart, Herold said, 
had been recommended to them. 

So with the two companions on one of Bryant's horses and 
Bryant himself on the other, they arrived at Stewart's door. 
Bryant stated: "I heard the Doctor tell the well man that his 
brother could not stay there; he had no room for him, he had 
turned away some Maryland soldiers that day." 22 Stewart said 
that the fugitives got to his house about eight o'clock and re- 
mained not more than a quarter of an hour. The smaller man, 
who had "a short carbine" and a satchel, informed the Doctor 
that they were Marylanders, would like to be put up for the night, 
and wished then to "go to Mosby." They were looking for some- 
body to take them to Fredericksburg. The other man, wearing "a 
large shawl," said that he had broken his leg in a fall and that 
Doctor Mudd had set it. 

"I did not really believe he had a broken leg," Stewart said; 
"I thought it was all put on, although he was on two crutches." 
Stewart further said it had occurred to him that the men might 
have been connected with "the vile act of assassination," of which 
he had heard on the previous Tuesday. 23 

Known for his Confederate sympathies during the war, Stewart 
had been under surveillance and arrest, and therefore he now felt 
it prudent to do no more than give these strangers a meal and 
direct them to the cabin of William Lucas, a free Negro who 
worked on the Stewart farm. Bryant meanwhile had started for 

"From the original record (Washington, May 6, 1865) in the office of the Judge 
Advocate General. 

23 From the original record (Washington, May 6, 1865) in the office of the Judge 
Advocate General. 


home, but, on being called back by the Doctor, he consented to 
take the pair to Lucas' and leave them there. Though Booth 
hardly spoke, Herold prattled incessantly— or, in Bryant's idiom, 
"The well one talked all." 

Piqued by Stewart's treatment, Booth sent $2.50 to the Doc- 
tor, with the following note: 

Dear Sir: Forgive me, but I have some little pride. I hate to blame 
you for your want of hospitality: you know your own affairs. I was sick 
and tired, with a broken leg, in need of medical advice. I would not 
have turned a dog from my door in such a condition. However, you 
were kind enough to give me something to eat, for which I not only 
thank you, but on account of the reluctant manner in which it was 
bestowed, I feel bound to pay for it. It is not the substance, but the 
manner in which a kindness is extended, that makes one happy in the 
acceptance thereof. The sauce in meat is ceremony; meeting were bare 
without it. ["Macbeth," iii, 4] Be kind enough to accept the enclosed 
two dollars and a half (though hard to spare) for what we have re- 

Yours respectfully, 

The original of this was later obtained from Stewart by the War 

That night Herold and Booth were sheltered in the primitive 
dwelling of William Lucas; and next morning Lucas drove them 
to Port Conway, where a ferry crossed the Rappahannock to Port 
Royal. There three young fellows came riding along— three 
friends who had grown up together and lately had been with 
Mosby's irregulars in Loudoun and Fauquier Counties. Riding 
their own horses, they were on the way homeward, ready to give 
their paroles to the nearest provost marshal or parole officer. Their 
respective ranks have been a matter of dispute, but their names 
were Bainbridge, Ruggles, and Jett. Jett, who was only eighteen, 
had for a time been on duty as commissary agent in Caroline 
County, collecting the tax in kind and receiving stores from de- 
tailed, exempted, and bonded farmers— men who were exempted 
from the Confederate service and bonded to furnish beef, bacon, 
and other supplies at government prices. He had, therefore, an 
extensive acquaintance with Caroline County and its people; and 
a sweetheart lived at Bowling Green. 


Herold at first introduced himself as David E. Boyd and said 
that the man with him was his brother, James W. Boyd, who had 
been wounded in the leg in a fight near Petersburg. Before long, 
however, he admitted his own and Booth's identity; and Jett, 
though "thrown aback" (as he said) so that he could not speak 
for two or three minutes, finally consented, with the approval of 
Bainbridge and Ruggles, to find a place of safety for the outlawed 

Booth's injured leg was much swollen and evidently painful; 
his face was pinched and haggard, and the sunken eyes had a fever- 
ish brightness. The heavy mustache was gone, but a ten days' 
growth of beard covered his face, and his dark clothing looked 
unkempt. On his left foot was a shoe whose upper part had been 
entirely cut away. The letters J. W. B. in India ink on his left 
wrist were a distinguishing mark. He explained that he was abso- 
lutely unable to walk any considerable distance, so he was placed 
on Ruggles' horse, and thus, his crutches carried by Ruggles, he 
crossed with the others on the scow that served as a ferryboat. 

Jett took him to the Peytons' at Port Royal and the Misses 
Peyton seemed disposed to receive him, but on second thought 
Miss Sarah Jane decided not to entertain anyone in the absence 
of her brother Randolph. A Mr. Catlitt was not at home; but 
Miss Peyton said, "You can get him [Booth] in anywhere up the 
road— Mr. Garrett's or anywhere else." With Booth on Ruggles' 
horse, Ruggles behind Bainbridge, Herold behind Jett, the party 
set out at one o'clock for the Garrett place, about three miles from 
Port Royal. As they rode along, Booth said that he did not intend 
to be captured alive. 

The unpretentious Garrett farmhouse stood in a grove of locust 
trees at the end of a lane that led from the highway between Port 
Royal and Bowling Green. While Herold and Bainbridge waited 
at the lane gate, Ruggles and Jett went up to the house with 
Booth. Richard H. Garrett was of pronounced Confederate sym- 
pathies and during the war Southern agents in their comings and 
goings appear to have found a ready welcome under his roof. 
The two older Garrett boys, John and William, had just returned 
from service with the Confederate forces. Jett, who knew Mr. 
Garrett by sight but had never met him, introduced Booth as 


John W. Boyd, a Confederate soldier wounded in one of the en- 
gagements around Petersburg. 

"We want you," Jett said, "to take care of him for a day or so. 
Will you do it?" 

"Yes," Garrett answered. "Certainly I will." 

Jett, in his sworn statement of May 6th, 1865, 24 confirmed 
members of the Garrett family in their assertion that he did not 
reveal who "John W. Boyd" actually was. Ruggles and Jett went 
on to Bowling Green, where they stayed with the family of Jett's 
sweetheart, Miss Goldman; Herold accompanied Bainbridge to 
the house of a Mr. Clark, about three miles short of Bowling 

Booth, glad of this opportunity to rest but mindful that it must 
be brief, was a rather silent guest. Besides Mrs. Garrett, others in 
the household were young Richard, a lad of eleven; a sister Annie; 
and Miss Holloway, Mrs. Garrett's sister. Strangers on unknown 
errands had lodged there before this, during the war, and had 
gone their way with no questions asked. After a good night's 
sleep, Booth spent most of the morning on the porch, from which 
there was a view of rolling fields and the stretch of highroad. 
The noon meal over, he went back to the porch and there, in talk 
with him, Annie said she thought Lincoln's death a most unfor- 
tunate thing just at that time. He replied that it was the best thing 
that could have happened, for Andrew Johnson, a drunken sot, 
would be President, a revolution would ensue, and this would 
benefit the South. 

About three o'clock in the afternoon, Ruggles and Bainbridge 
came riding up, bringing Herold with them. They signaled to 
Booth and, out of earshot of the Garretts, talked with him for half 
an hour; then Bainbridge and Ruggles started for Port Royal 
and Booth presented Herold to the Garretts as "a friend." Just 
outside of Port Royal another Confederate hailed Ruggles and 
Bainbridge and said to them: 

"If you haven't your paroles and don't want to be captured, 
you'd better turn back. The town is full of Yanks searching for 
Booth. They say he crossed the river yesterday." 

So the two at once rode back to Garrett's and found Booth 

24 In the archives of the Judge Advocate General. 


lying on the grass in front of the house. He rose, hobbled toward 
them, and asked, "Well, boys, what's in the wind now?" They 
told him, and advised that he and Herold take cover in a piece of 
woodland just beyond the farm buildings. There the fugitives 
remained until dusk. This seemed to the Garretts a queer pro- 
ceeding, and Jack Garrett frankly said so to "Mr. Boyd." It looked 
as if "Mr. Boyd" and friend were hiding for some reason none 
too creditable; and Jack said, "You know what you have done. 
If you have got into any difficulty, you must leave at once." And 
"Mr. Boyd" answered that they had been in a little "brush" over 
in Maryland but it was now a thing of the past. 

That evening Booth asked Jack to drive him and Herold to 
Guiney's Station, saying that if they once could get by rail to 
Louisa Court House he hoped to find near there a Maryland 
battery which had not yet disbanded. Jack promised to do so in 
the morning and Booth paid him $10 in advance. At bedtime 
Booth asked whether Herold and himself could not sleep else- 
where than upstairs, and Jack got a key and took them out to 
the tobacco-house. 

This building, usually referred to as simply a "barn," was a 
barn of a special kind. About sixty feet square, it was built with 
four-inch spaces between the boards of the siding. Before the war, 
considerable tobacco had been grown on the Garrett place; and 
the tobacco, after cutting, was hung in this tobacco-house to 
"cure"— a process aided by the passage of air through the open- 
ings. Farming implements were stored here now, and, covered 
with hay, some treasured pieces of furniture belonging to fami- 
lies in Port Royal. 

Jack piled up hay for a bed and about nine o'clock locked 
Booth and Herold in for the night. There were other doors, how- 
ever—doors fastened on the inside, and Jack and William feared 
that their guests, of whom they were by this time decidedly sus- 
picious, might get out and steal the Garrett horses. The brothers 
therefore decided to pass the night on watch in a near-by "shuck 
house" or corncrib. 

About two o'clock on Wednesday morning the sudden loud 
barkings of the dogs echoed under the locusts. There was the 
clank of armed men, the stir of horses; and, looking out, the 


Garretts saw amazedly that their yard was alive with Union cav- 
alrymen. Knocks were rained on the side door of the house and 
voices demanded admittance. Hastily drawing on some clothes, 
Mr. Garrett went to the door and opened it. Stern faces con- 
fronted him, rough hands grasped him, and this angry question 
was thundered at him: 

"What do you mean by harboring the murderer of President 

Eleven this was he 

ON the morning of Sunday, April 23rd, when Booth and 
Herold had just landed on the Virginia shore, Col. L. C. Baker 
sent the following note to Maj. Gen. W. S. Hancock- 
General — I am directed by the Secretary of War to apply to you for a 
small cavalry force of twenty-five (25) men, well mounted, to be com- 
manded by a reliable and discreet commissioned officer. 

Can you furnish them? and if so, will you please direct the officer 
commanding the squad to report to me with the men at No. 217 Penn- 
sylvania Avenue, opposite Willard's Hotel, at once? x 

By four o'clock on the afternoon of the 24th, orders had filtered 
down through the appropriate channels and at last reached Lieut. 
Edward P. Doherty as he sat on a bench in Lafayette Park. The 
Lieutenant belonged to the Sixteenth New York Cavalry, Col. 
N. B. Switzer commanding. He selected twenty-six men of that 
regiment— two sergeants, seven corporals, and seventeen privates 
—and within a half-hour had reported with them to Colonel 
Baker. Baker thus described what then took place: 

... I immediately called into my private office two of my detective 
officers — Colonel Conger and Lieutenant Baker — and informed them 
that I had information that Booth and Harrold [Herold] had crossed 
the Potomac, at the same time pointing out with a pencil the place on 
a map where they had crossed, and where I believed they would be 
found. Lieutenant Dougherty [Doherty], of the Sixteenth New York 
Cavalry, who commanded this squad, was introduced to Colonel 
Conger and Lieutenant Baker, with the following remark: — "You 
are going in pursuit of the assassins. You have the latest reliable infor- 

1 "History of the United States Secret Service"; pp. 530-531. 



mation concerning them. You will act under the orders of Colonel 

Conger had been lieutenant colonel of the First District of 
Columbia Cavalry, the nucleus of which was a battalion enlisted 
for duty in Washington under command of Col. L. C. Baker 
and commonly known as "Baker's Mounted Rangers." Colonel 
Baker had been colonel of the regiment, and Luther B. Baker 
(Byron Baker), a cousin of his, was a lieutenant in the same force. 
The service of the regiment had now ended and Colonel Baker 
had therefore been obliged to request a detail of troops. Lieuten- 
ant Doherty and his squad were assigned to this duty; and, in a 
sworn statement by Conger and L. B. Baker, were properly de- 
scribed as "subordinate, though necessary, instruments." 

In this statement, prepared for Secretary Stanton, 2 Conger and 
L. B. Baker said that Colonel Baker told Doherty he "must ren- 
der them all the assistance in his power" but gave him no further 
instructions. "Colonel Conger, while in service, having been the 
senior of Lieutenant Baker in the same cavalry regiment, and of 
large experience, by tacit consent as between them, took the main 
direction of affairs when present. In his absence, Lieutenant 
Baker was the acknowledged director of the expedition." It seems 
clear from this and from other sources 3 that Lieutenant Doherty 
was in immediate command of the soldiers (to whom Lieutenant 
Baker once referred as "dead-beats") 4 but that he was in no sense 
the leader of the party. Doherty's testimony at the Conspiracy 
Trial is at variance with his narrative in the Century Magazine? 
nearly a quarter-century later, in which Conger and L. B. Baker 
are practically ignored. No good purpose would here be served 
by entering into the disputes that arose in this connection; but 
as erroneous impressions have been spread, it is well they should 
be corrected by a look at the record. It likewise remains true that 
Colonel Baker planned the expedition and laid out its general 
course. We do not know exactly what convinced him that at last 
he had struck the right trail. His detectives (including Lieutenant 

2 "History of the United States Secret Service"; pp. 532-540. 

3 For example, Official Records, I, vol. xlvi, pt. 1; pp. 1317-1318. 

4 House Reports, Fortieth Congress, 1st session, rept. 7; p. 488. He explained that 
they were the kind that had all sorts of excuses for remaining in camp. 

B January, 1890; pp. 446-449. 


Baker), carrying with them likenesses of Herold and Booth, had 
been quietly at work in Lower Maryland. He himself in July 
1861, as agent for General Scott, had crossed from Port Tobacco 
to the vicinity of Dumfries, Virginia, on a journey to Richmond 
and back, and was familiar with the main arteries of travel across 
the "northern neck" and beyond. 

Conger's party embarked about four o'clock, Monday after- 
noon, April 24th, on the steamer John S. Ide, and reached the 
wharf at Belle Plain in King George County, Virginia (sixty 
miles downstream and a rendezvous of patrol boats), about ten 
in the evening. It set out at once, taking the way that led to the 
Rappahannock; and throughout the night Conger, representing 
himself to be one of a number of Confederates seeking escape into 
the interior, visited almost every house, inquiring about the 
crossings of the Rappahannock, whether ford or ferry, and about 
the doctors in those parts— for it was believed that Booth would 
be needing surgical aid. Nothing, however, was learned. Port 
Conway was not reached until noon of the 25th, and there a brief 
halt was made. 

At that time Lieutenant Baker had a talk with a villager named 
William Rollins (he has mistakenly been called the ferryman) 
and showed him photographs of Booth and Herold. Rollins recog- 
nized the portrait of Herold and said that Booth's picture resem- 
bled Herold's companion except that the man had no such mus- 
tache. He said that while these two were waiting for the ferry on 
the preceding afternoon, three Confederates on horseback rode 
up, and that all five crossed together, the Confederates having 
taken the strangers under their protection and agreed to give 
them a lift. Rollins knew that one of them, Jett, had a sweetheart 
at Bowling Green, and he thought it likely that all hands had gone 
thither. As he was ready to act as guide, he was forthwith arrested 
for the sake of appearances, and the party was ferried to Port 

A short distance from there, two horsemen, who apparently 
had been observing the expedition's movements, dashed away with 
Conger and Baker in hot pursuit and disappeared from view. 
Presumably they were Ruggles and Bainbridge. Bowling Green 
was reached between eleven o'clock and midnight. The horses 


were fagged, the men half asleep. An old hotel, where the Gold- 
mans lived and Jett was supposed to be, loomed dark and silent 
and there was some delay before Conger was admitted. Jett woke 
to find himself under arrest and struggled into his trousers. 

"Where," questioned Conger, "are the two men who came 
across the river with you?" Baker and Doherty had followed him 
into the room. 

Jett's only answer was, "Can I see you alone?" "You can," Con- 
ger said, and asked Doherty and Baker to step outside. 

"I know who it is you want," Jett acknowledged, "and I'll tell 
you where they can be found." 

"That," Conger returned, "is what I wish to know." 

"They're on the road to Port Royal," Jett said, "about three 
miles this side of it." He went on to explain that they were at 
Richard Garrett's and professed his willingness to show Conger 
the place. 

"You have a horse?" Conger inquired. 

"Yes, sir." 

"Get it and be ready to go," the detective ordered; adding, 
"You say they're on the road to Port Royal? I've just come from 

After a pause, Jett said: "Oh, I thought you came from Rich- 
mond. You've come past them. I couldn't be sure whether they 
are there now or not." In his heart he was hoping they had 
escaped. He would never have treacherously betrayed them; but 
this was his life against their lives— and the war was over, and he 
was only eighteen. 

He dressed and before long was in the saddle, riding at Con- 
ger's side while the drowsy troops clattered along behind. When 
the party arrived at the roadside entrance to Garrett's lane, Con- 
ger and Baker proceeded to explore the surroundings and the 
cavalrymen dismounted, lay down on the ground, and went 
promptly to sleep. With some effort they were put in motion again 
and deployed around the house. The elder Garrett, after he had 
struck a light and opened the side door, assured Baker and Con- 
ger that the two men who had been stopping there had gone "to 
the woods." 


"Well, sir," Conger interrupted, "whereabouts in the woods 
have they gone?" 

But Garrett, instead of answering, began to protest that the 
strangers had remained against his wish. Conger broke in: 

"I don't want any long story— I want to know where those men 
have gone." Then, turning to a cavalryman, he said: "Bring a 
rope and I'll put him up to the top of one of those locust trees." 

At that moment Jack Garrett intervened, saying, "I'll tell you 
where the men are you want to find. They're in the tobacco- 
house." He led the way, and in a short time the greater part of 
Doherty's command was stationed about the tobacco-house, each 
man having his post assigned to him with instructions not to leave 
it unless ordered. William Garrett now appeared and Baker sent 
him for the key of the tobacco-house door. A lighted candle in 
Baker's hand threw an uncertain splotch of color on the darkness; 
in the windless hush the listeners outside could hear footsteps 
within the building. 

Having unlocked the door, Baker said to Jack Garrett: "You 
must go in and get the arms from those men. They know you 
and you can go in." Then he called out: "We're going to send in 
this man, on whose premises you are, to get your arms, and you 
must come out and deliver yourselves up." There was no response 
but Jack, after some objection, went in and parleying could be 
heard. "Damn you," somebody said, "you have betrayed me. Get 
out of here!" 

Fumbling at the door, Garrett cried, "Let me out! He's going 
to shoot me." 

"You can't come out," Baker demurred, "unless you bring the 

"He won't give them to me," Garrett insisted. "Let me out 
quick!" Thereupon Baker opened the door and, as Garrett jumped 
out, immediately closed it. "I'll do anything for you," Jack said 
to Baker, "except go in there again. He's desperate and he'll shoot 

"How do you know he was going to shoot you?" Conger asked. 

"He reached down to the hay behind him to get his revolver," 
said Jack with conviction. Conger and Baker now decided to fire 


the tobacco-house, and Baker warned those inside that this would 
be done unless they surrendered within five minutes. 

"Well, Captain," was the reply, "that is damned hard, to burn 
an innocent man's barn. I'm lame. Give me a chance. Draw up 
your men before the door and I'll come out and fight the whole 

"We didn't come here to fight," Baker said, "but to take you 

"Let us have a little time to consider," pleaded the unseen. 
"Very well," said Baker, and waited. 

"Captain," the next words were, "there's a man here who 
wants very much to surrender." 

"Let him hand out his arms," Baker answered, unfastening the 
lock but keeping it in the hasp. A voice said: "Go, go, you damned 
coward! I wouldn't have you stay with me." Then followed raps 
on the door and another voice appealed, "Let me out— let me 

"You can't come out," Baker declared, "until you bring your 

"Captain," said the first voice, "the arms are mine and I shall 
keep them. This man is guilty of no crime." 

Conger urged, "Never mind the arms. If we can get one of 
these men out, let's do it." Accordingly Baker opened the door 
and Davy Herold came out to be seized and passed to the rear, 
where Lieutenant Doherty took charge of him and bound him to 
a tree. Baker had all this while been holding the candle, and the 
man in the tobacco-house now spoke again: "Captain, I consider 
you to be a brave and honorable man. I have had half a dozen 
opportunities to shoot you." Conger said it was foolhardy for 
Baker to hold the candle, so Baker put it on the ground about 
twenty feet from the door and announced that the tobacco-house 
would be fired at once. In what Conger afterward described as "a 
singular, theatrical voice," the man inside exclaimed: 

"Well, my brave boys, you can prepare a stretcher for me!" 

Conger went around to the corner of the tobacco-house, drew 
out a wisp of hay through one of the gaps, lit it, and thrust it 
back. The flames spread rapidly across the floor and soon were 
climbing the side of the building. 


"One more stain on the old banner," hallooed the voice in the 
same tone as before. Baker opened the door enough to look in, 
and there, leaning against a pile of hay, a crutch under each arm 
and a carbine resting on his hip, was John Booth. He dropped one 
crutch and started toward the fire, then paused and glanced along 
the openings, though he could see nothing beyond them. Near him 
lay a table, upside down. He took hold of it as if intending to 
beat out the fire with it but quickly dropped it and turned to 
look around the tobacco-house, through whose roof the smoke 
was already pouring. All at once he noticed that the door was 
partly open and advanced toward it, dropping the other crutch 
and moving, as Baker later said, with "a kind of limping, halting 
jump." He had drawn a revolver and, with carbine in one hand 
and revolver in the other, was within a dozen feet of the door 
when above the noise of the fire a shot resounded. 

Booth gave a spring, fell in a heap, rolled partly over. Baker, 
thinking he might try to get up, caught him by the arms and held 
him as Conger rushed in— then they saw that this was a mortal 
wound. "It is Booth, certainly," Baker said to Conger. "What on 
earth did you shoot him for?" 

"I didn't shoot him," said Conger with emphasis. "He shot 

"No, he didn't," Baker replied, just as emphatically. 

Conger raised Booth then, found blood oozing from the right 
side of the neck, and repeated, "Yes, sir, he shot himself;" and 
again Baker said earnestly, "He did not." Baker and Conger, as- 
sisted by two soldiers, carried him out and laid him on the grass 
under the locust trees. They threw water in his face; his lips 
stirred. "Tell mother," he whispered faintly— "tell mother I die 
for my country." 

Meanwhile Doherty's men had attempted to put out the fire, 
but it had made such headway that nothing effective could be 
done. The heat in the vicinity of the tobacco-house had become 
so intense that Booth was taken to the porch of the Garrett 
dwelling, and there a mattress was doubled up and he was leaned 
against it. Catching sight of Jett, he asked Conger, "Did that man 
betray me?"— at which Conger told him that Jett, too, was under 
arrest. He revived a little and they changed his position several 


times, but he could get no ease. "Kill me— kill me," he kept 
whispering, and they said, "We don't want to kill you— we want 
you to get well." At the same time they were taking from him 
whatever articles they could find— the pocket compass, with 
candle drippings still on it; a handful of pine shavings, apparently 
whittled to start a fire with; a soiled handkerchief; a meerschaum 
pipe, some tobacco, and a bunch of matches; a bill of exchange in 
triplicate for £61 12s. iod., drawn on the Montreal branch of 
the Ontario Bank; a crystal scarf pin (the gift of Dan Bryant, 
the minstrel); a pocket knife, greenbacks, keys; a little Catholic 
medal; a leather-bound memorandum book. These things are 
specified in the record. 

Conger picked some of the articles— including the compass, the 
bill of exchange, and the memorandum book— and set out post- 
haste for Belle Plain. 6 From that point a steamer conveyed him 
back to Washington and about five o'clock he reported at the 
headquarters of Colonel Baker, who "felt like raising a shout of 
joy" and immediately drove him to Stanton's residence at 1325 
K Street. "We have got Booth!" were Baker's first words as he 
rushed into the Secretary's presence. 7 

Summoned from Port Royal, Doctor Urquhart said there was 
no hope for the wounded man, who steadily grew weaker. Miss 
Holloway, Mrs. Garrett's sister, brought a pillow and placed it 
under Booth's head, moistened his lips, smoothed his forehead. 
He asked that his paralyzed arms be lifted; viewed his hands and 
murmured despairingly, "Useless, useless!" About dawn, between 
five o'clock and six, he gasped— and his pain was ended. "A stray 
curl that had fallen over my fingers . . . ," Miss Holloway wrote, 
"was cut off by Dr. Urquhart and given to me." 8 It was April 
26th, the day when Gen. J. E. Johnston put his name to the revised 
terms of surrender. Booth's field glass, which he had left on a book- 
case, was sent by Miss Holloway to her mother's, about eight 
miles distant, and later recovered by Lieutenant Baker. It was 
the field glass, in a package that Weichmann said looked "like 

6 Surratt Trial, vol. ii, p. 311. House Reports, Fortieth Congress, 1st session, rept. 
7; pp. 329, 487. 

7 "History of the United States Secret Service"; p. 540. 

8 From her MS. in the Confederate Museum, Richmond. 


perhaps two or three saucers wrapped up," that Mrs. Surratt had 
casually handed to Mrs. Offutt at Surrattsville on April 14th. 
Lloyd, Mrs. Offutt's brother-in-law, put it with the carbines and 
other things left to his care by John Surratt when the abduction 
scheme was in planning; and he had given it, with one carbine, 
to the urgent Davy Herold. 

Booth's face soon became much disfigured. Baker and Doherty 
sewed up the body closely in Baker's own army blanket, and a 
Negro laborer thereabouts was hired to drive it to Belle Plain in 
his ramshackle wagon. Baker, attended by a corporal and an or- 
derly, started on ahead with the wagon, leaving Doherty in charge 
of Davy Herold, who babbled of his innocence and professed that 
he had merely happened to be an accidental traveling companion 
of the dead man. (Booth he at first called Boyd, but this pretense 
soon was abandoned.) The mysterious burden, with nothing vis- 
ible save a pair of feet, moved through the April countryside. 
Though roped down, the bundle shook restively; and G. A. 
Townsend impressed his readers with an account of how blood 
dripped through the floor boards and upon Ned Freeman's black 
hands, and how Ned in superstitious horror cried out, "It'll never 
wash off— it's murderer's blood!" 

Men also dwelt upon the strange coincidence by which John 
Booth's wound resembled the wound he had inflicted upon Lin- 
coln. As a matter of fact, no such resemblance existed. In Lin- 
coln's case the bullet entered the back of the head below the 
left ear and ploughed its way diagonally upward, lodging behind 
the right eye. In Booth's case the bullet entered the right side of 
the neck, fractured two vertebrae, and passed out at the left, 
making a hole (as Baker said) through "both sides of his collar." 
The words of the official description are: 

A conoidal pistol ball entered the right side, comminuting the base 
of the right lamina of the fourth vertebra, fracturing it longitudinally 
and separating it from the spinous process, at the same time fracturing 
the fifth thru its pedicle and involving that transverse process. The 
missile passed directly thru the canal with a slight inclination down- 
ward and to the rear[,] emerging thru the left bases of the fourth and 
fifth laminae, which are comminuted, and from which fragments were 
embedded in the muscles of the neck. The bullet in its course avoided 
the large cervical vessels. 


The spinal cord was perforated opposite the fourth and fifth ver- 
tebras. 9 

Booth was fully identified at Garrett's. Even before Lieutenant 
Baker, quickly opening the door of the tobacco-house, saw a 
lame man "with a crutch under each arm," Booth's manner was 
remarked as distinctive: "From the tone of his voice, and his 
theatrical style, every word seemed to be studied," was Baker's 
comment. 10 Conger, who had known John Booth by sight in Wash- 
ington and had been struck by John's resemblance to Edwin, was 
wholly satisfied as to the identity of the man shot at Garrett's. 11 
Lieutenant Baker carried a photograph of John: "I had his like- 
ness," Baker testified, "and identified him by it." 12 Among the 
personal effects taken from the man on Garrett's porch were not 
only a bill of exchange made payable to Booth's order, and a 
memorandum book undeniably his, but also a crystal pin fastened 
to the undershirt and bearing an inscription showing it to be a 
gift of Dan Bryant to John Booth. Who but John Booth could 
have asked regarding Jett: "Did that man betray me?" 

William Lightfoot of Port Royal, having served in the Ninth 
Virginia Cavalry, had returned after Lee's surrender and was at 
breakfast that morning of April 26th when he heard talk of a 
shooting at Garrett's. He went up there directly and saw the 
body of a man lying on the porch— Booth, they all said. Lightfoot 
was familiar with Booth's photographs, which he had seen com- 
monly displayed, with those of other actors, in Richmond before 
the war. "I knew him right away," he said in 1928, "and never 
thought of it being possible that it could be anybody else." 13 

The Garretts recognized the man taken from the burning to- 
bacco-house as the same that had been presented to them by Jett 
and entertained in their home. Young Richard Garrett became in 
after years the Rev. Dr. R. B. Garrett, who said decisively: 

His [Booth's] remains were most thoroughly identified from a photo- 
graph and the printed description that was possessed by the soldiers. 

9 From the exhibit in the Army Medical Museum, Washington. 

10 House Reports, Fortieth Congress, 1st session, rept. 7; p. 488. 
u Poore, vol. i, p. 322. 

12 House Report, p. 487. 

"Lewis, "Myths after Lincoln"; pp. 282-283. 


... I was there and present at the identification. . . . There was the 
tattoo mark of his initials on the arm, and the comparison with the 
picture was perfect. God never made two men as exactly alike as that 
dead man and the one whose photograph there could be no doubt was 
Booth's. Point by point the printed description held in the detective's 
hand was followed out. Height, color of hair and eyes, every scar and 
mark tallied exactly. . . . 14 

On March 1 ith, 1877, this same R. B. Garrett had written from 
Leetown, West Virginia, a letter to Edwin Booth in which he 

An Editor of a Baltimore paper has found out that I have in my 
possession a lock of your brother's hair cut from brow after he was 
dead, and that editor has written to me asking for the hair for some 
member of your family. What I wish to know is this. Did you or any 
member of your family authorize him to do this? I am perfectly willing 
to give up the hair to any of your brother's relatives but to no one else. 

We have never had an opportunity of telling you before but we will 
tell you now that my mother and sisters did everything in their power 
to make your brother comfortable in his last hours even when they did 
not know who he was, and had they known it would have made no 
change in them. 15 

Obviously the Garretts had no doubts as to Booth's identity. 

Arguments before long developed regarding his wound. Lieu- 
tenant Baker's account is straightforward enough. Looking 
through the doorway of the tobacco-house, he had Booth full in 
view, highlighted by the mounting flames and but a few feet 
away when the report of a shot was heard. Baker said definitely 
that Booth did not shoot himself, that the shot came from outside 
the tobacco-house; and at first he suspected Conger. When Con- 
ger denied having fired the shot, Baker rejoined, "Well, the man 
who did goes back under arrest." After Booth had been laid 
on the porch, Baker asked Conger whether he had found the 
man, and Conger answered, "No, but I will." According to Do- 
ner ty, Conger did find the man— Sergt. "Boston" Corbett, top 

"From an interview (at Norfolk, Virginia) in the Theatre Collection of the 
New York Public Library. 

15 From the original at The Players and here printed for the first time by special 


sergeant of the detail and the only man picked from Doherty's 
own company. 

"Why in hell did you shoot without orders?" raged Conger. 

Assuming the position of a soldier, Corbett saluted and gravely 
replied, "Colonel, Providence directed me." Which, to use Baker's 
expression, "rather nonplussed the Colonel," who for the time 
being had nothing further to say. 

Thomas Corbett, hatter by trade and a fine workman, took the 
name Boston from that of the city in which he had experienced 
conversion. Thenceforward he was known as a religious enthusi- 
ast. He volunteered four times during the war, was fearless in 
battle and a crack shot. It was told that once, when with a detach- 
ment of the Sixteenth New York Cavalry hemmed in by Mosby 
near Culpeper, he killed seven of the enemy before he surren- 
dered, and that, like one of Cromwell's Ironsides, he shouted as 
each man fell, "Amen! Glory to God!" Admiring his pluck, Mosby 
spared him for the horrors of Andersonville, from which an ex- 
change delivered him none too soon. 16 

Lieutenant Doherty wrote that he himself stationed Corbett 
at an opening in the tobacco-house; 17 and, armed with a Colt's 
revolver, Corbett (by his own testimony) kept his eye steadily on 
Booth "to see that he did no harm." 18 Convinced that John was 
about to start a fight, the Sergeant drew trigger. "I aimed at his 
body," he said; "I did not want to kill him. ... I think he 
stooped to pick up something just as I fired. That may probably 
account for his receiving the ball in the head." 19 

Arrested and held for court-martial, Corbett was brought before 
Stanton, with Doherty and others present. Doherty stated that 
Corbett, though he shot without orders, was a brave and true 
soldier and had three times requested permission to enter the 
tobacco-house and fetch out Booth. Stanton said: "The rebel is 
dead; the patriot lives— has saved us continued excitement, delay, 
and expense. The patriot is released." 20 Both then and later, 
Lieutenant Doherty maintained that Booth was shot by Corbett. 

"New York Times, May 2, 1865; p. 1. 

17 Century Magazine, Jan. 1890; p. 449. 

"Poore, vol. i, pp. 323-325. 

"New York Herald, Apr. 28, 1865; p. 1. 

20 B. B. Johnson: "Abraham Lincoln and Boston Corbett"; pp. 34-38. 


Corbett seems to have expected that some credit would be be- 
stowed on him, as upon one that had done well for his country; 
but his share in the reward was no more than that of the other 
members of Doherty's squad (fixed originally at $1,000, afterward 
increased to $1,653.85), and journalists portrayed him as a luna- 
tic. Austin Potter, also sergeant in the Sixteenth New York 
Cavalry, denied that Corbett when in the service was, as he had 
been pictured, "gloomy and fanatical." Potter wrote: "My recol- 
lection of him— and we soldiers learned to know one another as 
we roughed it together on picket and on scout— is the very oppo- 
site to this. I have never known a person so cheerful and heroic. 
. . . His example has been a source of inspiration to me through 
all the years since last we parted." 21 

After his experiences in connection with the affair at Garrett's, 
Corbett became somewhat morose and frequently said that officials 
in Washington were indignant because his bullet had robbed them 
of the opportunity to win coveted glory by means of the trial and 
execution of Booth. R. B. Hoover, who met Corbett at a soldiers' 
reunion at Caldwell, Ohio, in 1875, tells of his leading a prayer 
meeting in the village church, 22 and adds: 

He was always well armed, in self-defence, as he explained, and his 
experience while at Caldwell showed that he had some reason to fear 
violence. He got into an exciting argument with several men one after- 
noon over the question as to whether Booth had really been killed at 
all. Hot words ensued, a rush was made towards Corbett, and in an 
instant the gleaming barrel of his revolver flashed in the faces of his 

Taking up eighty acres of homesteading land near Concordia, 
Kansas, Corbett, never much of a farmer, built a shanty and won 
local respect by his skill in bringing down crows and hawks on the 
wing. He wore an old army belt, from which dangled a brace of 
pistols; but as a neighbor observed, "in these early days in Kansas 
little attention was paid to a man just because he felt more at 
ease in a pistol belt than out of one." Friends obtained his ap- 
pointment as assistant doorkeeper at the state capitol in Topeka. 
A story has often been told of how he suddenly went berserk and, 

21 Century Magazine, Apr. 1890; pp. 957-958. 

23 North American Review, Sept. 1889; pp. 382-384. 


with a revolver in each hand, attempted to kill the speaker of 
the House and others. According to Gomer T. Davies, editor of 
The Kansan and at that time a member of the House, Corbett 
simply broke up a "mock session" being held by pages, clerks, and 
other employees. The acting speaker requested "the Reverend 
So-and-so" to invoke a blessing, and Corbett, to whom this was 
blasphemy, flashed a thirty-eight. 23 

He was seized and led to jail. Charles Curtis, prosecuting 
attorney of the county and subsequently Vice-President of the 
United States, succeeded in having him adjudged insane and he 
was placed in a state institution at Topeka. 

Having escaped to Neodesha, he remained there two days in 
the house of Richard Thatcher, who had been a fellow prisoner 
at Andersonville; then he disappeared forever. He had said he 
was going to Mexico (where, some believed, John Booth had 
hoped to find a refuge), and rumor made him a patent-medicine 
vendor roaming the South or a revivalist in the Texas "Pan- 
handle." A claimant of his pension was shown to be an impostor 
and was sentenced by a district court to three years in the Atlanta 
Penitentiary. A real mystery still veils the fate of Thomas ("Bos- 
ton") Corbett. 

Ruggles with the utmost positiveness declared that Booth 
"placed his pistol to the back of his head, and took his own life." 
Corbett, Ruggles said, would not, from the point at which he 
stood, have been able to see Booth; furthermore, one chamber 
of Booth's revolver was empty. 24 For none of these statements did 
Ruggles, who was not present, give any authority. Conger, who 
was there, testified, "... I was by the side of the tobacco house. 
The man who shot him [Booth] was on the next side around the 
corner of the house [that is, the tobacco-house]." 25 Corbett was 
looking through a four-inch opening and Booth, in the glare of 
that burning interior, would have been plainly visible. 

As a witness at the Conspiracy Trial, Conger explicitly stated 
that a Spencer carbine and two revolvers were taken from Booth 

33 A. T. Reid in Scribner's Magazine, July 1929; p. 15. 

34 Century Magazine, Jan. 1890; p. 446. 

25 House Reports, Fortieth Congress, 1st session, rept. 7; p. 325. 


and that all three weapons were loaded. Had there been an empty 
chamber in any of them, he would surely have mentioned the fact; 
but even that would not in itself have proved Booth to be a suicide. 
At the time Booth fell, Lieutenant Baker had him full in view; 
and, knowing that the shot had been fired from outside, Baker 
at first attributed it to Conger. Baker's opinion of the John Booth 
he then saw advancing toward the opened door was expressed in 
these words: 

I think he would have come out and fought the whole command. 
... I think he would have sold his life as dearly and bravely as possible. 

When Ned Freeman's rickety wagon at last had reached Belle 
Plain, where the John S. Ide lay waiting, the body was placed on 
deck; and so dog-tired was Lieutenant Baker that, after calling 
for a guard, he slumped down there. The next thing he knew, 
the vessel was approaching the Navy Yard and Col. L. C. Baker 
was shaking him and telling him to get up. At Stanton's order, 
the Colonel, with Major Eckert, had gone by steamer to Alex- 
andria to meet the Ide, which had arrived at twenty minutes to 

In the Eastern Branch, not far from the Navy Yard, the Mon- 
tauk rode at anchor. Paine, O'Laughlin, Spangler, and Atzerodt 
were confined on board, having for greater security been trans- 
ferred from the Old Capitol. Each had an iron weight attached to 
one leg by a heavy chain, each wore handcuffs joined by a rigid 
bar; canvas hoods were tied over their heads, covering their faces; 
and they were guarded by a detail of marines under command of 
Captain Monroe. Spangler afterward wrote that he "could not see 
daylight" and that eating was so difficult that even the guard took 
pity on him. 26 Sergeant Peddicord of the marine guard told how 
stalwart Paine resented the hood, breaking silence to ask, "What 
is that for?" Mrs. Surratt (exempt from hood and rigid shackles), 
Arnold, and others were aboard the monitor Saugus, anchored 

At midnight Sergeant Peddicord, on waking his relief, Sergeant 

26 John T. Ford Papers. It has been stated that Paine was on the Saugus. He may 
later have been removed thither; but he was brought, Peddicord says definitely, 
from shore to the Montauk and confined in the chain locker. 


Hartley, told him that Captain Monroe and Lieutenant Young 
were "looking for something to come up the river." He then 
turned in until six o'clock. The sergeants had berths inside the 
monitor's turret, while the remainder of the guard slept on deck 
beneath an awning. In the morning at six, Hartley said to Peddi- 
cord, "Come out here. I have something for you." On a carpen- 
ter's bench under the awning lay the body of a man wrapped in a 
soldier's blanket. 

"Take charge of this body," Hartley ordered, "and allow no one 
to touch it without orders from Colonel Baker." 

Peddicord stated in 1903 (he was then Dr. J. M. Peddicord, 
a dentist of Roanoke, Virginia): 

It was the body of the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, which had been 
brought up the river during the night. ... At breakfast, when relieved 
by Hartley while I was eating, we unwrapped the face and compared it 
with a photograph, and I also remember the letters in India ink, on the 
back of his hand, in pale, straggling characters, "J. W. B.," as a boy 
would have done it. 27 

These were the very same initials that, with like phraseology, 
Asia Booth Clarke (writing in distant England a biographical 
sketch that first saw the light in 1938) said John, "when a little 
boy," had "clumsily marked." 

Soon barges were rowed out from the Navy Yard to the moni- 
tor, bringing Holt, the Judge Advocate General; unwearied 
Colonel Baker; Surgeon-General J. K. Barnes, attended by a 
hospital steward with a case of instruments. To the throngs that 
collected along the shore, the presence of these three was in itself 
a token of some grave matter afoot. Others, officers and civilians, 
joined the group around the carpenter's bench, where Sergeant 
Peddicord remained on duty. 

In the course of that forenoon of April 27th an autopsy was 
held under the direction of Surgeon-General Barnes. Peddicord 
saw it all, and before it was over he managed to snip from "about 
the top" of the head a "lock of fine black hair." 

The bandage was carefully removed from the injured leg, 
which was then examined; and after this the wound in the neck 
was duly inspected. An assistant cut out the third, fourth, and 

3T Roanoke Evening News, June 6, 1903. 


fifth vertebrae, the object being to trace unmistakably the entire 
course of the fatal bullet. To show the fracture and lesion that 
caused death, these vertebras, with the accompanying bit of 
spinal cord, were placed among the exhibits of the Army Medical 
Museum. There was no truth whatever in the report that the 
body was dissected, though one alleged eyewitness said he had 
"watched his opportunity" and acquired a fragment as a sou- 
venir! 28 Equally false were assertions that the head had been 
severed from the body and either put in the Museum or otherwise 
disposed of, and that the heart had been taken out. 29 

At this time (in the words of Colonel Baker, who was present) 
the identity of the body was established "beyond all cavil." For 
this purpose "a kind of military coroner's jury" had been assem- 
bled, 30 and under oath a number of these persons stated un- 
equivocally their recognition. The following testimony has been 
transcribed from the original depositions in the archives of the 
Judge Advocate General. These were taken on board the monitor 
by Holt on the 27th, sworn and subscribed to on the 28th. 

— Charles Dawson, head clerk in the office of the National Hotel, where 

John Booth lived; well acquainted with him, thoroughly familiar with 

his appearance: 

Question. — Have you just examined the dead body which is claimed to 

be that of J. Wilkes Booth, on board of this vessel? 

Answer. — I have. 

Question. — Will you state whether or not in your judgment it is the 

body of J. Wilkes Booth? 

Answer. — I distinctly recognize it as the body of J. Wilkes Booth — first, 

from the general appearance; next, from the India-ink letters "J.W.B." 

on his wrist, which I have very frequently noticed; and then by a Scar 

on the neck. I also recognize the vest as that of J. Wilkes Booth. 

Question. — On which hand or wrist are the India-ink initials referred 


Answer. — On the left. 

— Seaton Munroe, prominent attorney-at-law, Washington, who knew 

28 New York Times, Apr. 29, 1865; P- *• 

29 L. C. Baker, "History"; p. 541. Baker's testimony in 1867 before the House 
Committee on the Judiciary. New York Clipper, May 20, 1865. It was also said that 
the broken leg had been detached (New York World, Feb. 14, 1869). 

30 North American Review, Apr. 1896; p. 431. 


Booth socially, was "very familiar" with his appearance, and made 

"close inspection of the features several times": 

Question. — What is your opinion as to its being the dead body of J. 

Wilkes Booth? 

Answer. — I am confident that it is the dead body of J. Wilkes Booth. 

Question. — Are there any special marks which enable you to recognize 


Answer. — I recognize it only from its general appearance, in which I do 

not think I can be mistaken. 

— Charles M. Collins, holding the post of captain's clerk and signal 
officer on board the Montauk, who since 1862 had known John Booth 
by sight and for about six weeks had known him personally: 
Question. — State whether, in your judgment or opinion, it is the body 
of J. Wilkes Booth? 

Answer. — I have not the least doubt that it is the body of J. Wilkes 
Booth. I recognized it at two o'clock this morning when it was brought 
on board. 

— Acting Master William W. Crowninshield, U.S.N., who had known 
Booth for about a month and a half and was familiar with his features: 

I feel satisfied that it is the body of J. Wilkes Booth. 
Question. — Have you seen him frequently? 
Answer. — Yes, sir. 

Question. — And feel that you cannot be mistaken? 
Answer. — I cannot be mistaken. 

— Dr. John F. May, probably Washington's leading surgeon, who had 
removed a fibroid tumor from Booth's neck: 

I told the Surgeon General these facts this morning, before I looked 
at the cicatrix at all, and said that he would probably find a large ugly 
looking Scar, instead of a neat line. He said it corresponded exactly 
with my description. The Scar looks as much like the effect of a burn 
as the cicatrix from a surgical operation. 

Question. — Do you recognize the body as that of J. Wilkes Booth from 
its general appearance, and also from the particular appearance of the 

Answer. — I do recognize it, though it is very much altered since I saw 
Booth. It looks to me much older, and in appearance much more 
freckled than he was. I do not recollect that he was at all freckled. I 
have no doubt it is his body. I recognize the features. When he came to 
my office, he had no beard excepting a moustache. 
Question. — From the nature of this wound, even apart from the gen- 

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eral appearance, you could not be mistaken as to the identity of the 


Answer. — From the Scar in connection with the recognition of the 

features, which though much changed and altered, still have the same 

appearance, I think I cannot be mistaken. I recognize the likeness. 

I have no doubt that it is the person from whom I took the tumor, and 

that it is the body of J. Wilkes Booth. 

In his "The Mark of the Scalpel," a paper written in January 
1887, Doctor May fully explained the distinctive "Scar" referred 
to by himself and Dawson. 31 A lump on his neck— "on the back of 
it and rather on the left side"— had annoyed John Booth and 
he consulted the Doctor, who advised immediate removal. The 
Doctor told him, however, that absolute rest was desirable, in 
order that the edges of the surgical wound might firmly unite by 
"primary adhesion" and leave "so fine a line of cicatrix as scarcely 
to be noticed." Booth explained that absolute rest was out of the 
question, as he was playing an engagement with Charlotte Cush- 
man; but he promised to avoid strain upon the wound. He par- 
ticularly asked the Doctor to say, if questioned, that a bullet had 
been extracted; but he gave no reason for this and the Doctor 
made no promises. 32 

The union was at first perfect but one morning Booth entered 
the Doctor's office with the flesh torn and gaping. He said that 
Miss Cushman, a robust performer, had thrown her arm so 
vigorously around him as to break open the wound. Eventually 
new tissue formed but "a large and ugly scar" remained. In 1867 33 
Doctor May gave the following testimony: 

Q. Describe the appearance of the scar afterwards. 

A. It was a scar of some width, that would not have been made by a 
surgical operation if the wound had united properly, which it did 
before he had it torn open. It then left a broad, ugly-looking scar, pro- 
duced by the granulating process, which is the case with wounds torn 
open. They do not unite the second time generally. 

Q. Any discoloration? 

31 This paper was read by W. H. Dennis before the Columbia Historical Society of 
Washington on Feb. 9, 1909, and printed in the Records of the Society for 1910 

(pp. 51-68). 

32 See Chapter Seven of the present volume for the barber-shop repartee on the 
morning of Apr. 14. 

33 At the Surratt Trial (The Reporter, vol. iii, pp. 236-237). 


A. Oh, yes. The scar is usually of a whiter color after a time. It is 
first of a redder color, but in the course of time the cicatrix becomes 
rather whiter and more dense. 

The Doctor said that Booth had come to him at least a year, pos- 
sibly a year and a half, before the murder. 

At the Conspiracy Trial in 1865 Surgeon-General Barnes gave 
this testimony: 34 

Q. State whether or not you made an examination of the body of J. W. 

Booth after his death, when brought to this city. 
A. I did. 

Q. Describe to the Court the scar which is alleged to have been on his 

A. The scar on the left side of the neck was occasioned by an operation 
performed by Dr. May, of this city, for the removal of a tumor, 
some months previously to Booth's death. 

Q. What was its peculiar appearance, if it had any . . . ? 

A. It looked like the scar of a burn, instead of an incision; which Dr. 

May explained from the fact that the wound was torn open on the 

stage, when nearly healed. 
Q. How near was it to the ear? 
A. Three inches below the ear, upon the large muscle of the neck. 

This was obviously very different from the scar that the perjured 
Mary Hudspeth (or Hodspeth) declared she saw in New York— a 
scar "like a bite"— on the cheek of a young man with false whis- 
kers and small, beautiful hands 35 — the young man being, of course, 
John Booth! 

In "The Mark of the Scalpel" Doctor May wrote that after 
having seen Booth "in the vigor of life and health" he noted a 
striking contrast in the "haggard corpse" on which "my mark was 
unmistakably found." He had known the living man as "fashion- 
ably dressed and remarkably handsome" and now discovered a 
change in "facial expression." This would hardly be surprising, 
for even on the 21st (according to Jones) every step had been a 
torture to Booth and on the 24th, before the extremity of death, 
his face was "pinched with suffering." 36 He had lain in the open 

84 Poore, vol. ii, p. 60. 

35 Poore, vol. i, p. 26. Surratt Trial, vol. i, p. 353. 

36 Century Magazine, Jan. 1890; p. 444. 


on damp ground through a week of cloudy weather and Potomac 
fog; had lived upon nondescript food. His dark beard had grown 
long and the thick, wavy hair was by this time dirtied and un- 
kempt. 37 

The body of Abraham Lincoln was treated with all the preserva- 
tive art of that day; but when a private view was accorded Mrs. 
Sara Lippincott ("Grace Greenwood"), who had known him 
well, and she had remained "as long as I could bear," the face 
appeared to her "a dread simulacrum of the face of our great 
friend— so unlike was it, though so like. The color was not the 
pallor I remembered, but a sort of ashen gray; the mouth looked 
stern." 38 . . . Photographs were made of the dead Lincoln but 
the plates were destroyed because his expression was thought to 
be shrunken and unnatural. With a hint like this, mythopceists 
might declare it was the body not of Lincoln but of some one 
else that publicly journeyed back toward Springfield 

through lanes and streets, 
Through day and night with the great cloud darkening the land . . . 

As to John Booth, Seaton Munroe's first impression was evi- 
dently quite other than Doctor May's. To quote Munroe: 39 

I was soon gazing at the remains, which needed no long inspection 
to enable me to recognize them. The handsome countenance was 
unmarred by the agony of his lingering death, which I was soon to 
hear described. There were missing the moustache and the curling 
lock upon his forehead, which during the flight had been removed 
at the house of Dr. Mudd. There his broken leg had been set, and its 
foot was now covered by an old shoe, replacing the riding boot which 
it was found necessary to cut off. 

In his paper, written more than twenty years afterwards, when 
he was seventy-five years of age, May briefly mentioned Booth's 
right leg as "greatly contused, and perfectly black from a fracture 
of one of the long bones." This inadvertence may have crept in 
because, as he stood at the foot of the body, the left leg would 
have been at May's own right. (There is a similar confusion 
about left and right in the theater, the left of the stage being the 

37 New York Clipper, June 10, 1865. 

88 "Abraham Lincoln: Tributes from His Associates"; p. 114. 

39 North American Review, Apr. 1896; p. 431. 


right of the auditorium.) It may have been due to ordinary lapse 
of memory. In either case it is of no importance. May knew his 
sign-manual on Booth's neck; he raised no question whatever con- 
cerning that, and Surgeon-General Barnes confirmed him. In his 
testimony aboard the gunboat on April 27th, May said em- 

I recognize the likeness. ... I have no doubt that it is the person 
from whom I took the tumor, and that it is the body of J. Wilkes 

To that he swore. 

In Washington at that time, among the personnel in the office 
of Gen. B. W. Brice, Acting Paymaster-General, was Clarence 
F. Cobb, who had been a schoolmate of John Booth and in 1861 
had enlisted in the Union army. He had kept up a friendship 
with Booth; and when in Washington on furlough, "saw Jack 
there and he would look at my uniform and chaff me, in a play- 
ful way, for being a Yank, and I would chaff him for being a 
Johnny." On April 27th, Cobb said, General Brice sent for him 
(presumably knowing of Cobb's acquaintance with Booth). 

[He] told me in the strictest confidence, that he wished me to report 
to General Barnes, the Surgeon General of the army, and go down 
with him to identify Booth's body, which was on a monitor, lying in 
the Eastern Branch, off the Navy Yard. I immediately reported to Gen- 
eral Barnes, who was getting out of his ambulance in front of his office, 
on the northwest corner of Fifteenth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, 
and when I told him my errand, he said it was unnecessary; that he and 
nine others had identified the body; that Dr. Merrill, the dentist, had 
filled two teeth for Booth the week before [the murder]; that they had 
forced the mouth open and saw the fillings. So the identification was 
complete. . . . 40 

Dentistry had only just got launched on its career as a skilled 
profession, and Dr. William Merrill, with an office at 344 Penn- 
sylvania Avenue, was among Washington's better practitioners. 
His work for Booth must have been dene previous to April 1st 
because the register of the National Hotel showed that John was 
out of the city from the 1st to the 8th; but that is a minor error. 

40 Dramatic Mirror, Feb. 26, 1916; pp. 3, 5. (Cobb was then "a retired army officer 
and ex-newspaper man" in Los Angeles.) 


Conger and Lieutenant Baker were, of course, able to identify 
the body as that of the man shot in Garrett's tobacco-house. 41 
Lieutenant Baker had accompanied it from Garrett's porch to the 
monitor. Oldroyd, who assembled the Oldroyd Collection and 
was throughout his life a repository of personal statements, ven- 
tured the assertion that practically all of John Booth's more 
intimate actor friends in Washington visited the monitor and 
identified the body to their own satisfaction. Men of Colonel 
Baker's force were ready to escort persons who claimed to have 
known Booth and from whom it was thought that something 
might be learned. 42 This doubtless accounts for the presence 
aboard the Montauk of a lady who, having identified the body, 
clipped a lock of hair. (It was a period when hair, treasured as a 
memento, was braided into watch guards, fixed in brooches, or 
tied with a ribbon and hoarded among other keepsakes in bureau 
drawers.) Returning at that moment after a short absence, the 
inflexible Colonel Baker took from her the relic she declined to 
surrender, and then he ordered that the deck be cleared. 43 Stanton 
had warned the Colonel that every hair of Booth's head would be 
prized by "sympathizers with the South in Washington." 

Hundreds had flocked to the Navy Yard and were trying from 
there to catch a glimpse of the body and of the proceedings on the 
ironclad. At nine-twenty that morning Stanton had telegraphed 
this bulletin to Maj. Gen. John A. Dix in New York: 

Booth's body and Harrold [Herold] are now here. 

Next day's Intelligencer said that Washington had been "elec- 
trified" by the reports of capture. "It was hoped that he [Booth] 
had been taken alive, and that offended justice would be avenged 
by his summary execution." . . . Workmen in the Yard found 
it difficult to pursue their tasks because of the crowd, and any- 
body supposed to be informed was plied with questions. 

The purpose had, of course, been to bring to Washington the 
living Booth. On April 15th these orders had issued from the 
Navy Department: 44 

41 Poore, vol. i, p. 318. 

"Washington Evening Star, Jan. 5, 1907. 

43 Baker, "History"; pp. 507-508. 

"Official Records, I, vol. xlvi, pt. 3; p. 768. (Cf. Baker, "History"; p. 528.) 


Commodore J. B. Montgomery, Navy- Yard, Washington: 

If the military authorities arrest the murderer of the President and 
take him to the yard, put him on a monitor, and anchor her in the 
stream, with strong guard on vessel, wharf, and in yard. Call upon 
commandant of Marine Corps for guard. Have vessel immediately pre- 
pared ready to receive him at any hour, day or night, with necessary 
instructions. He will be heavily ironed and so guarded as to prevent 
escape or injury to himself. 

Gideon Welles, 

Secretary of the Navy. 

Colonel Zeilin, Commandant Marine Corps: 

Have extra strong and careful guard ready for special service, if 
called for by Commodore Montgomery. 

G. Welles, 

Secretary of the Navy. 

On the same day Commodore Montgomery had addressed this 
letter to Colonel Zeilin at the Corps barracks on Eighth Street: 

Navy Yard Washington 
April 15, 1865 
Colonel J. Zeilin 

Comdt. Marine Corps 

Head Quarters 

I am directed by Commodore J. B. Montgomery Comd* of this yard 
to state, in the event of the arrival of the murderer of President Lin- 
coln, that he will require a strong guard of Marines from you to carry 
out the orders of the Department. 

You will please have them ready day or night, and inform me how 
many you can detail for this service. The Marines will not probably 
leave the yard. 

I am, very respectfully, 

Your ob dt sevt. 

J. B. Montgomery 


P.S. It may be necessary to call for every man who can be spared from 

the necessary posts of the Garrison. 

Very resp. 

J. B. Montgomery 

Comm dt - 45 

If a living John Booth had been brought to Washington, he would 
have been placed in irons in the Montauk's hold, with other 

45 From the original in the Bland Collection. 


prisoners of state already there. When it had seemed possible that 
a mob might attack the Old Capitol, these prisoners had been 
taken singly in closed vehicles to the Navy Yard and put aboard 
the monitor. In case of attempt at escape— which, considering the 
irons and hoods each wore, seemed most unlikely— the guards had 
orders to shoot. 

Precaution regarding Booth was well-advised. When three pris- 
oners were being marched to the Old Capitol on April 17th, a 
crowd, believing two of them to be Surratt and Booth, called, 
"Shoot them! Hang them!" and finally made a rush at the guard. 46 
Jack and Will Garrett, under arrest, were landed in Washington 
from the John S. Ide in the early morning of April 27th and es- 
corted by four detectives to the Arsenal, where they remained 
about five days. When it was learned where they were, a mob made 
a raid on the Arsenal, "what to do with us I do not know," said 
Will Garrett, "unless to hang us." The guard was doubled and 
artillery was posted before the gates of the inclosure. While being 
transferred to the Old Capitol, the Garretts, surrounded by troops 
in hollow square, were hissed and followed with cries of "Rebel! 
Rebel!" 47 It was through motives not of stealth but of prudence 
that the authorities from the first had planned to receive the living 
Booth on the monitor, and there they naturally received him dead. 

In 1867, before the Judiciary Committee of the House, Sec- 
retary Stanton testified decisively in these words: 48 

Q. Have you any reason to believe that Booth is not dead? 

A. None whatever. I had a board to inspect and examine his body 
when it was on the iron-clad, consisting of the Surgeon General and 
some officers whose names I cannot now mention. Dr. May, who knew 
Booth personally, was also with the board. They reported that it was 
the body of J. Wilkes Booth. 

Q. Was Dr. May a member of the board? 

A. Dr. May was not on the board, but he was examined by the board. 
I believe that that was the body of Booth, upon the testimony given at 
the time, as certainly as I believe I am now in existence. 

Though there were rivalry and jealousy as to the reward-money, 

48 Washington Morning Chronicle, Apr. 18; p. 2. 

47 Confederate Veteran, April 1921; p. 130. 

48 House Reports, Fortieth Congress, 1st session, rept. 7; p. 408. 


and charges of foul play in its distribution, none of the thirty-four 
persons who were judged to have aided in the capture of Booth 
and Herold ever disputed Booth's identity. 

So frequently and positively have the myth-builders denied that 
the reward was actually paid that a letter to the present writer 
from Joseph Greenberg, chief of the division of bookkeeping and 
warrants of the Treasury Department, should here be quoted: 

You are advised appropriation for payment of these rewards was 
provided under the Act of July 28, 1866 (14 Stat., 341). This Act 
specifically named the persons to whom payments should be made, the 
general distribution of the rewards being as follows: 

For the capture of Payne [Paine] 

(Distributed to 10 persons) $ 5,000 

For the capture of Atzerott [Atzerodt] 

(Distributed to 9 persons) 25,000 

For the capture of Booth and Herold 

(Distributed to 34 persons) 75,000 

Total $105,000 

Payment to each person named in the Act of July 28, 1866, was made 
by separate draft of the Treasurer of the United States issued August 9, 
1866, in a total amount of $104,999.60, and according to correspond- 
ence on file in this office each of the paid drafts, aggregating the total 
sum disbursed, was returned in due course to the Treasury as paid. 
The sum of $0.40, remaining on the books of the Treasury on account 
of fractions of a cent which were not disbursed, was carried to the 
surplus fund of the Treasury on June 30, 1868. 

Likenesses of John Booth were plentiful. With those of other 
well-known players, they could be had at shops and photograph 
galleries; and it had been a custom on special occasions, such as 
benefit nights, to give souvenir carte-de-visite portraits of stage 
folk to the ladies of the audience or to all purchasers of reserved 
seats. Booth, said Washington's Morning Chronicle** had "ex- 
hibited his somewhat striking visage on every stage in America, 
and has had himself daguerreotyped and photographed oftener 
than he has said his prayers." There were also poster portraits in 
color, an example of which is preserved in an extra-illustrated 
volume (formerly belonging to Laurence Hutton) in the Prince- 

*»Apr. 18; p. 2. 


ton University Library. On April 14th— as soon as possible after 
his arrival from New York— Colonel Baker obtained photographs 
of Booth, Davy Herold, and John H. Surratt, had copies made, and 
mailed these broadcast, with descriptions and his own offer of 
$10,000 reward, to detectives throughout the North, as well as to 
various local authorities. As to Booth, the Morning Chronicle 
said, "Probably most policemen in this country have seen him, and 
every one in the two hemispheres will be furnished with an ac- 
curate likeness." . . . The Commercial Advertiser (New York) 
said 50 portraits of Booth were sent "in every direction" in order to 
"lead to his arrest." 

Photographs of Booth such as Lieutenant Baker had at Gar- 
rett's, or such as Sergeant Hartley and Sergeant Peddicord used on 
the monitor, were available for comparison. The large reward- 
poster issued by the War Department under date of April 20th 
carried at its head, attached within rule borders, three copies of 
photographs— Surratt at the left, Herold at the right, and John 
Booth in the center in familiar and characteristic pose. This 
poster, though now rare, was then widely distributed. At Port Con- 
way, William Rollins recognized the portraits of Booth and 
Herold shown him by Lieutenant Baker; and when Booth lay on 
Garrett's porch "the comparison with the picture," said the Rev. 
Dr. R. B. Garrett, "was perfect." The same Booth lay on a car- 
penter's rough bench under the Montauk's awning. There, by 
the report of an Associated Press dispatch (appearing in the New 
York Times of April 29th), "a photographic view of the body 
was taken." 

By the time the Conspiracy Trial got under way, on May 12th, 
1865, enterprising dealers had been doing a thriving business in 
pictures of "the Assassin"— small engravings or copies of photo- 
graphs. 51 A Montreal correspondent wrote to the New York Clip- 
per* 2 that in October 1864 he had spent an evening at billiards 
with John Booth at St. Lawrence Hall; and said he: "The photo- 
graphs commonly circulated at present are evidently correct, as 
they serve to replace his appearance on that evening very vividly 

60 Apr. 24; p. 1. 

51 In Harper's Weekly for May 6 (p. 286) an advertisement offered photographs 
at twenty-five cents each, $1.75 a dozen. News-vendors had portraits for sale. 
"Issue of May 20, 1865. 


in my mind." 53 The records of the trial show, through the testi- 
mony of Sergt. Silas T. Cobb, Lieut. J. W. Dempsey, John Green- 
await, A. R. Reeves, Edward C. Stewart, and others to whom 
photographs of Booth were exhibited, that the photographs were 
authentic. There is no support whatever for the preposterous 
statement that a photograph of Edwin Booth was used through- 
out the trial as that of John, in order (as has been charged) to 
bolster the prosecution's case. Whatever its faults— and they were 
many— the prosecution would not have been stupid enough to 
undertake such a thing, nor would defense counsel— including 
such men as Reverdy Johnson, Gen. Thomas Ewing, and Maj. 
William E. Doster— have been stupid enough to be deceived. In 
his argument in the case of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, General Ewing, 
describing Booth's arrival at Mudd's on April 15th, said: "Booth 
got there, with Herold, about daybreak (Frank Washington). 
He usually wore a mustache (see photograph)." . . , 54 

In the archives of the Judge Advocate General the present 
writer has seen a photograph of smooth-faced Edwin Booth. It 
was enclosed, with an unintelligible penciled memorandum, in an 
envelope marked "C. Dawson" and bearing the corner card of the 
United States District Attorney, District of Columbia. This en- 
velope was in turn enclosed in a larger one inscribed with pen- 
printing: Booth's Photograph Ex. No. 1. The photograph of John 
Booth was missing. It was only one of numerous things missing 
from the records of the Conspiracy Trial. Other things had been 
misplaced. No appropriation had been made for special care of 
this material, and in the course of years it, like some other rec- 
ords at Washington, had suffered vicissitudes. But there were sup- 
posable reasons why it included a photograph of Edwin Booth. 
Lieut. A. M. S. Crawford, who sat in the dress circle with Captain 
McGowan on the night of April 14th, said that the dark man 
"very strongly resembled the Booths" 55 — not specifying more 
closely. Even on Sunday, April 16th, it was reported in Washing- 

B3 On May 2 the sale of portraits "of any rebel officer or soldier, or of J. Wilkes 
Booth" was forbidden in the Middle Department by order 95 from Gen. Lew Wal- 
lace's headquarters at Baltimore (National Republican, May 3; p. 2). 

64 Mudd, "The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd"; p. 88. 

55 Original statement as written out by James Tanner (Union League Club, Phila- 


ton that Edwin killed the President, and John T. Ford heard this 
in Richmond on Sunday night. 56 It is likely that photographs of all 
the brothers were obtained by the detectives. 57 

Another possible reason could have been that John without his 
mustache bore a noticeable semblance to Edwin— and it was 
known that John's mustache had been removed while he was 
at Mudd's. Hence it might have been thought that Edwin's por- 
trait would aid in establishing John's identity; and of course this 
portrait may not originally have been in the envelope marked 
"Booth's Photograph." 

It is to be added that Edwin was subpoenaed as a witness for 
the defense at the Conspiracy Trial— "to show the influence his 
brother exerted over weaker minds," wrote W. E. Doster, coun- 
sel for Atzerodt and Paine. "He came," Doster proceeded, "but 
said he knew less of his brother, probably, than any one— that he 
had had nothing to do with him for years." 58 Hence he was not 
put on the stand; but he might have been— in which event the use 
of his photograph as John's would more than ever have been a 
ticklish business. Under the stress that followed upon the heels 
of Lincoln's murder, the authorities no doubt often did things it 
now is easy to criticize; but there really is no evidence of subter- 
fuge or concealment at any time regarding John Booth's identity. 

The New York Evening Post of Thursday, April 27th, said edi- 
torially: "The body of our murdered President is not yet laid in 
the grave, when his assassin meets his doom, at the hands of an 
officer of justice." That same afternoon (the autopsy having been 
completed and the body fully identified) the body again was sewed 
up in its blanket— and then something unexpected happened. The 
blanket-wrapped figure must be disposed of, and Stanton, with his 
usual decisiveness, had instructed Colonel Baker what to do with 
it. It was lifted from the ironclad's deck into a small boat rowed 
by two seamen of the crew, and only the Bakers accompanied it. 
Watchers at the edge of the Yard saw the boat move in an indirect 

6e Ewing's argument in the case of Mudd; Ford's testimony. 

"Intelligencer, Apr. 28; p. 2. — A file of material regarding the Booths was as- 
sembled by the War Department. 

58 "Lincoln and Episodes of the Civil War"; p. 275. Mrs. T. B. Aldrich, "Crowding 
Memories"; pp. 82-83. 


course down the Eastern Branch past Buzzard Point, past Green- 
leafs Point, and vanish. 

Washington's Constitutional Union next day had this to say edi- 

Booth's identity and the cause of his death having been established, 
we suppose that nothing was left for the Government but to put his 
carcase out of sight, and we presume the place of his interment will not 
be made known. 

The presumption is that the body will be sunk in the sea, so that no 
one can tell where he is buried. 

The New York Times of May ist hoped 

the report is true that the government has disposed of the body of the 
assassin Booth in such a way that its resting-place will never be known. 
. . . The grave of the assassin of the President, if known, would be 
visited by thousands from curiosity, and would become a celebrated 
resort of sightseers, whose detestation of the deed would be overborne 
or modified by that strange wonder which always surrounds acts of 
desperate hardihood. We trust the secret of Booth's sepulchre will 
never be revealed. 

The Cleveland Plain Dealer thought, however, 59 that "the Govern- 
ment owed a duty to itself and to the country" and that it was 
"incumbent upon the authorities so to deal with the criminal as 
to render his fate impressive." Regretting the lack of "solemn and 
becoming" procedure, the Plain Dealer continued: 

To make war on the wretched relics of humanity from which life has 
fled, and which have become a mere piece of unconscious carrion-clay, 
is a violation of sense and decency. The body of Booth should have 
been deposited, like that of any other malefactor, in some Potter's 
Field, instead of being invested with a mysterious secrecy, resembling 
more an incident in some flash novel than the act of a great nation in 
dealing with a public criminal. 

On May ist the Constitutional Union emphasized the "mystery" 
by declaring: 

The resting place of the body is unknown to the world with the 
exception of U. S. Detective Baker and another man. They took the 
body away in a small boat. They are sworn to secrecy. 

60 Apr. 28, quoted in the Sunday Mercury (New York) of Apr. 30. 


George A. Townsend, young correspondent of the New York 
World, cut loose in this romantic fashion: 60 

"What have you done with the body?" said I to [Colonel] Baker. 

"That is known," he answered, "to only one man living beside my- 
self. It is gone; I will not tell where; the only man who knows is sworn 
to silence; never till the great trumpeter comes shall the grave of 
Booth be discovered." And this is true. ... A small rowboat received 
the carcass of the murderer; two men were in it; they carried the body 
off into the darkness. . . . The river bottom may ooze about it, laden 
with great shot and drowning manacles. The earth may have opened 
to give it that silence and forgiveness which man will never give to its 
memory. The fishes may swim around it, or the daisies grow white 
above it, but we shall never know. 

This and similar, if less gaudy, journalistic writing must have had 
a considerable influence in preparing the soil wherein the Great 
American Myth was to flourish. Already war had largely increased 
the distribution and influence of Northern papers; and the events 
attending and following Lincoln's death had further swelled the 
number of readers. Colonel Baker, to "gratify, as far as possible to 
do so, the mournful curiosity of the people," directed "some cor- 
respondence" (he says) from his headquarters— and Townsend, 
from whom the Colonel quotes freely, was, as Townsend himself 
admits, thus censored by Baker. 

Colonel Baker's general principle in such matters has been 
frankly stated in his book: 61 

It may be said, that the deception and misstatements resorted to, and 
inseparable from the detective service, are demoralizing, and prove 
unsoundness of character in its officers. But it must be borne in mind 
that, in war, no commander fails to deceive the enemy when possible, 
to secure the least advantage. . . . The work of the detective is simply 
deception reduced to a science or profession; and whatever objection, 
on ethical grounds, may lie against the secret service, lies with equal 
force against the strategy and tactics of Washington, Scott, Grant, and 
the host of their illustrious associates in the wars of the world. . . . 

In 1867, when sworn before the House Judiciary Committee, 
Colonel Baker gave this testimony: 

60 "The Life, Crime, and Capture of John Wilkes Booth"; pp. 38-39. (This paper- 
covered reprint of eight of Townsend's newspaper letters had a large popular sale.) 

61 Introductory Chapter (p. 44). 


Q. Did you ever represent to anybody that you or some of your 
assistants took the body of Booth out into the ocean, tied stones to it, 
and sunk it? 

A. I do not know that I ever did directly. I have been questioned a 
great deal in reference to that matter, and used to reply to the reporters 
somewhat at random. Very likely I did make such a statement. I do not 

Q. Why do you say very likely you did? 

A. I say that because, at the time the body was disposed of, I was be- 
set by correspondents and others who wanted to ascertain where it was 
buried. The Secretary did not want anybody to know. 

Q. Is it a fact that the body was taken out into the ocean and sunk? 

A. No, sir.* * * 

Q. Did you ever represent that you alone, with one other man, dis- 
posed of the body and that no other persons on earth knew where it 

A. My previous answer applies to this question. 

Q. You will answer this question if you please. 

A. I might have made that representation. 

Q. Is it true? 

A. No, sir, it is not true. I have stated my reasons for making it. 62 

On May 20th, 1865, the widely read Frank Leslie's Illustrated 
Newspaper carried a front-page engraving of the dime novel 
SKETCH. Above this, in large type, was the following note: 

The sketch below was furnished by one of the two officers employed 
in the duty of sinking the body of Booth in the middle of the Potomac. 
Although not authorized to divulge his name, I am able to vouch for 
the truth of the representation. 

New York, May 10th, 1865. 

The picture shows two bearded gentlemen in army uniform 
(one of whom may perhaps be intended for Colonel Baker) en- 
gaged at dead of night in sliding over the gunwale of a dinghy 
what evidently is a sheeted figure lashed to a plank. Drawn by a 
staff artist, the scene, it is hardly necessary to say, was purely 
imaginative. Probably the details were supplied by Colonel 

62 The Colonel was nettled (not without reason) at certain questions, and his testi- 
mony assumed the nature of a verbal duel with his examiner. 


Baker's office; at all events, if the Colonel wasn't romancing, Mr. 
Leslie (ne Henry Carter) was. 

Questioned before the House Judiciary Committee on May 
18th, 1867, Secretary Stanton thus explained his procedure regard- 
ing the body: 

Q. What was the occasion of mystery about his burial? 
A. I do not know that there was any mystery about it other than this: 
I thought the body should be interred, so that if there was any dis- 
position to do so, the body might not be made the subject of glorifica- 
tion by disloyal persons and those sympathizing with the rebellion. 
I thought it would be a source of irritation to the loyal people of the 
country if his body was permitted to be made the instrument of rejoic- 
ing at the sacrifice of Mr. Lincoln; and that it would help to keep up 
the feeling of excitement and animosity on the part of those who sym- 
pathized, if they did not participate, with him in the act of Mr. Lin- 
coln's murder. 

Q. There was nothing about the identity of Booth that entered into 
your consideration of making the burial a secret? 

A. Nothing whatever. It was done simply and solely for the purpose of 
preventing him from being made the subject of rebel rejoicing.* * * 
Q. Was there any purpose in so burying the body of Booth that no 
history could ever give an account of the spot where he was buried? 
A. None whatever. The only object was to place his body where it 
could not be made an improper use of until the excitement had passed 
away, and then, I supposed, at the proper time, it would be given to his 

Stanton's enemies— and they were many— were quick to fasten 
upon this incident as one more excuse for repeated bitter com- 
plaints against him. As late as 1869 the New York World declared 
that Booth had been interred "with a secrecy which smacked of 
the Inquisition" and charged that "But for Edwin M. Stanton the 
glamour of a factitious mystery would never have been thrown 
around the burial of the poor lifeless remains." . . . Waxing vio- 
lent, it denounced the "malignant imbecility" of "this Pennsyl- 
vania lawyer, turned high priest of Moloch," who performed 
"mummeries" over a dead body. 63 

There were no mummeries, and the admittedly factitious mys- 
tery—to which journalistic paragraphers gave substantial aid— was 

63 Feb. 16; p. 1. Feb. 18; p. 4. 


bound to develop; for something wrapped in an army blanket 
had emerged from the vast gloom of the river and shortly disap- 
peared. The findings of the autopsy were disclosed in the curtest 
manner. Apparently feeling that Booth's deed had virtually 
thrown Washington back into a state of war, Colonel Baker exe- 
cuted his superior's orders and justified his hoaxing of trouble- 
some reporters. After all, rumors were prevalent— in the Navy 
Yard and elsewhere it was alleged that a war vessel would "take 
the body to sea and consign it to oblivion." 64 At the same time it 
was being hinted that the capture of Booth alive ought to have 
been thoroughly possible; and the story was passed around that 
a man in woman's clothes and using crutches had been seen enter- 
ing a house on Pennsylvania Avenue, between Eleventh and 
Twelfth Streets, and that the entire block had thereupon been 
searched— in vain! 65 It was even whispered that Colonel Baker 
and his associates were in a conspiracy to defraud, seeking to ob- 
tain reward-money for a corpse not Booth's. Myth was forming. 

Down in southernmost Washington, where the Eastern Branch 
joined the Potomac, was a thumblike bulge of land called Green- 
leaf's Point. An earthwork was built here before the close of the 
eighteenth century, and by 1803 there was a small military post, 
which, with the addition of workshops, became in 1817 the Wash- 
ington Arsenal. A Federal penitentiary of 160 cells was subse- 
quently located at the northern end of the reservation, and the 
discipline of prisoners was carried on side by side with the manu- 
facture of arms and ammunition. The Civil War made the arsenal 
an exceedingly busy place. Huge quantities of ordnance and small 
arms were stored there, and ammunition of all kinds was prepared. 
In 1862 the penitentiary building and grounds were transferred to 
the War Department's jurisdiction, the civil prisoners were re- 
moved to the penitentiary at Albany, New York, and the gloomy- 
looking brick structure was appropriated to military uses. 66 

It was to the former penitentiary building on the grounds of 
the Washington Arsenal that the body of John Booth was taken. 

64 James Croggon in the Evening Star (Washington), Jan. 5, 1907. 

65 New York World, Apr. 27; p. 4. 

66 W. J. O'Brien in Army Ordnance, July-Aug. 1935; pp. 32-35. 


This was in accordance with the directions of Secretary Stanton, 
as the Secretary himself testified before the Judiciary Committee 
of the House in 1867. 

Q. What was done with the body of Booth? 

A. I did not see him interred. I gave directions that he should be 

interred on the premises of the Ordnance Department; and the officer 

to whom I gave directions reported that he was so interred. 

Q. Did you give directions as to the particular manner in which he 

should be interred? 

A. I gave directions that he should be interred in that place, and that 

the place should be kept under lock and key. 

Watching from the Montauk's deck, Seaton Munroe followed the 
rowboat in its course down the Branch, saw it turn the point in 
the direction of the arsenal and disappear. 

The boat drew up to a wharf on the Potomac side of the arsenal 
grounds and there the body was lifted out and placed in a summer 
house or arbor overlooking the water. Lieutenant Baker took 
charge while Colonel Baker went to find Col. J. G. Benton, the 
officer then in command of the arsenal post. Both Colonel Baker 
and Lieutenant Baker testified to having seen the body carried 
within the walls surrounding the penitentiary building. 67 Indis- 
criminate references to both "arsenal" and "penitentiary" have 
naturally led to some confusion, but the matter is made sufficiently 
clear in the following excerpt from Colonel Baker's testimony: 

I call it the arsenal building, because it was used for arsenal stores. 
It was properly the old penitentiary, though it had not been used for a 
penitentiary for some time. 

Four-and-a-half Street ran directly from the City Hall to the peni- 
tentiary's gate. 

With the aid of a plan of the building, Stanton had given in- 
structions as to where the body should be put. The offices of the 
penitentiary had been at its western end— the end toward the 
Potomac— and next to them was a large, brick-floored room, origi- 
nally intended for the dining hall. After the War Department took 
over the premises, this room had been used as a depository for 

87 Before the Judiciary Committee of the House, Fortieth Congress, 1st session 


fixed ammunition or other arsenal stores. In it— reputedly in its 
southern half— John Booth's first grave was dug. Enlisted men of 
the Ordnance Corps did the work under Benton's supervision. 

Still in its wrapping, the body was enclosed in a musket case and 
laid without ceremony in the earth. Colonel Baker was at the peni- 
tentiary during the evening and Major Eckert, as Stanton's per- 
sonal representative, was there too, though neither was actually 
present at the burial. Two witnesses were E. N. Stebbins, store- 
keeper of the arsenal, and Assistant Surgeon G. L. Porter, on duty 
at that post. (Young Porter was later on the staff of Gen. J. F. 
Hartranft, who had charge of the execution of the doomed four 
on a hot July day in the penitentiary yard.) Like Sir John Moore 
at Corunna, Booth was inhumed "at dead of night" by a "lantern 
dimly burning." The grave was filled up, the bricks were replaced, 
the heavy gate was locked, and Stebbins took the key. When Col- 
onel Baker reported to Stanton that night, Stanton (Baker said), 
wished to know where the key was and Baker accordingly drove 
back for it and handed it over to the Secretary. 68 

Examined before the House Committee on the Judiciary (May 
30th, 1867), Major Eckert testified: 69 

Q. Did you see the grave? 

A. I did. 

Q. In what room was the burial to take place? 

A. In a large room in the arsenal building. 

Q. Please describe that room. 

A. The only description I can give of it is, that it is the largest room 

in the building . . . perhaps thirty feet square, and possibly more. 

I never was in it but twice. It is in the old penitentiary building. 70 

Stanton's testimony before the same committee was: 

Q. Who were the officers that buried him? 

A. The officer in charge, to whom I gave my directions, was Colonel 

Benton, of the Ordnance Bureau. 

Q. Did he report to you? 

68 New York Herald, May 12, 1865. New York Times, Oct. 4, 1867; Feb. 9, 1869; 
Feb. 21, 1901. Magazine of History, Apr. 1921. Porter, "The Tragedy of the Nation" 
(typescript in the Library of Congress). Baker's testimony before the House Com- 
mittee on the Judiciary. James Croggon in the Washington Star, Jan. 5, 1907. 

69 House Report; p. 679. 

70 Porter said "about 50 x 40." 


A. He reported that he had buried him. 

Q. Do you know who else besides Colonel Benton were employed? 

A. He employed some persons in his department. I was not present 

and do not know who was present. He reported that he had acted in 

accordance with my orders. 

Q. Was there anything buried with the body of Booth? 

A. Nothing whatever, so far as I have any knowledge. Colonel Benton 

can tell. 

John Booth was locked in seclusion. On May 4th the body of 
Abraham Lincoln, after "processions long and winding and the 
flambeaus of the night," was placed in a temporary vault in Oak 
Ridge Cemetery at Springfield. On John's birthday, May 10th, 
pursuant to executive order, a Military Commission of nine of- 
ficers assembled in a courtroom specially fitted up for it in the 
northeast corner of the penitentiary's third story, and there it sev- 
erally arraigned eight persons known as "the conspirators." The 
Commission on June 30th pronounced sentence upon the accused. 
Mrs. Mary Surratt, George A. Atzerodt, David E. Herold, and 
Lewis Paine were to be hanged by the neck until they were dead. 
Samuel Arnold, Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, and Michael O'Laughlin 
were to be imprisoned at hard labor for life; Edman Spangler was 
to be imprisoned at hard labor for six years. 

On July 7th, under a flaming sun, the four condemned to death 
were executed together on a scaffold in the penitentiary yard and 
buried in a row at its foot. Spangler, O'Laughlin, Arnold, and 
Mudd were later sent to Fort Jefferson on what was ironically 
named Golden Key, one of ten coral islets known as the Dry Tor- 
tugas, sixty-three miles west of Key West— a domain of sand 
burrs, prickly pear, and sharks. Meanwhile, for the greater part of 
two days, May 23rd and 24th, a vast column of sunburnt Union 
troops, their standards draped with flowers, marched along Penn- 
sylvania Avenue in grand review. 

John H. Surratt, after remaining in hiding in Canada, went to 
England and thence to Rome, where, under the name John 
Watson, he enlisted in the Pontifical Zouaves. The Ford brothers 
were released from prison, and through the press, under date of 
May 27th, John T. Ford expressed his gratitude 71 to "very many 

71 Clipper, June 10, 1865. 


kind and earnest friends for their unwavering confidence and gen- 
erous tenders of service." It was said that he was bargaining with 
a Congregational society for the sale of his Washington theater, 
and that if the building were purchased for use as a church "few 
changes will be made in the interior arrangements, and the boxes 
will remain as they were on the evening of the great tragedy." 72 
Subsequently it was reported that the Young Men's Christian As- 
sociation had "obtained a formal refusal of the property" until 
July ist but had met with small response to a public appeal for 
funds. 73 

Ford's price was $100,000; and according to hearsay, he would 
reopen the theater on September 1st rather than sell for less. By 
July 6th he was announcing that "the theater soon will be open to 
the public," though with the assurance that "The private box oc- 
cupied by our late lamented President will remain closed." A per- 
formance of "The Octoroon" was advertised for the evening of 
Monday, July 10th, but about seven o'clock Gen. G. W. Giles, 
commanding the provisional brigade of the Veteran Reserve 
Corps, called upon Proprietor Ford with an order from General 
Augur (commanding the Department of Washington) directing 
that the theater be immediately shut. 74 Notices reading CLOSED 
the building and patrons were turned away; the box-office having, 
it was said, no opportunity to return their money to those who had 
bought tickets in advance. 

Ford's counsel, H. Winter Davis and William Schley, writing 
from Baltimore on July 18th, informed Secretary Stanton that they 
believed Mr. Ford clearly to be entitled to use the theater for 
theatrical purposes, as his business was a lawful one which he had 
been duly licensed to pursue. They suggested that if the property 
were not returned, they would be compelled to advise their client 
as to the suitable remedy. On the following day the Secretary re- 
plied that he had seized and now held the property by order of 
President Johnson; that the President's instructions were to re- 
tain it for the use of the Government; that Mr. Ford's right to in- 

" New York Times, June 18, 1865. 
"/&., July 3, 1865. 

74 Commercial Advertiser (New York), July 11, 1865; also Baltimore American and 
Philadelphia Inquirer of same date. 


demnity was not disputed; and that there was "no objection to 
any advice you may be disposed to give him." 75 

From the first there had been strong general objection to Ford's 
scheme to resume performances. The New York Times 16 had edi- 
torially styled it "an outrage upon propriety." Threats of violent 
interference were heard in Washington. Ford had received this 

Washington, D. C. 
July 9th 1865 

Mr. J. T. Ford: 

Sir: You must not think of opening to morrow night — I can assure 
you that it will not be tolerated. You must dispose of the property in 
some other way — Take even fifty thousand for it, and build another 
and you will be generously supported — But do not attempt to open it 

One of many determined to 
prevent it. 77 

The Albany Evening Journal of July 13th expressed a common 
opinion in saying in an editorial article that Stanton deserved the 
public's thanks. But Lincoln's former Attorney-General and Stan- 
ton's associate in the Cabinet, Edward Bates, at that time in retire- 
ment in Missouri, made this sardonic entry in his diary: 78 

I see by the papers, that the Sec of War has, by his simple fiat, pre- 
vented the opening of Fords Theatre — the scene of Prest. Lincoln's 

After that, what may he not do? What is to hinder him from trans- 
ferring estates from one man to another, annulling land titles and 
dissolving the tie of marriage? 

And when Ford told him of Stanton's letter and the President's 
decision, another persistent diarist, Orville Browning (who 
shortly, however, became Johnson's Secretary of the Interior), 
grumbled: "Nothing could be more despotic, and yet in this free 
Country Mr Ford is utterly helpless, and without the means of 

With the understanding that it would be fully protected and 

"John T. Ford Papers. 
"June 18, 1865. 
" John T. Ford Papers. 
"Beale's ed., p. 491. 


either restored to Ford or purchased for $100,000, the theater was 
held under a lease running from July 8th, 1865, to June 30th, 
1866, at a rental of $1,500 a month. 79 Purchase which had been 
recommended to Congress by the Secretary of War, was then ef- 
fected on Ford's terms, which some had regarded as considerably 
above the intrinsic value. These are the facts in the case. The 
notion that Ford's property was wrested from him by a trick and 
at the Government's appraisal is utterly erroneous. 

There were Washingtonians who hoped that the building might 
be devoted to the use of a public lending-library. Endorsing this 
idea, the Chronicle remarked: 80 

The Congressional library is out of the way and is never open in the 
evening. Books cannot be borrowed thence except by the favor of some 
official. It is of little use to the citizens of Washington. 

This proposal apparently met with no official response and the 
refitted theater became part of the office of the Surgeon-General, 
United States Army. In it new quarters were found for the Army 
Medical Museum, to whose catalogue of singular exhibits the 
three vertebras of John Booth, with the fragment of his spinal 
cord, were duly added. 

The news of the assassination had been kept from the wounded 
Seward, but on Sunday, April 16th, he asked to have his bed 
moved so that he could get a view over Lafayette Park, where the 
trees were coming into leaf. Beyond the park he caught sight of 
a flag at half-staff above the portico of the War Department's 
barracklike headquarters. After an interval he said to his attend- 
ant: "The President is dead!"— and to the attendant's faltering 
denial he answered: 

"If he had been alive, he would have been the first to call on me; 
but he has not been here nor sent to ask how I am— and there is 
the flag!" And the tears began to fall. 81 

It was the 10th of July before he was reported to be well along 
toward recovery. Shock hastened the death of his invalid wife; but 

"The original abstract (Lincoln Museum) of payments shows a total of $17,661.29. 

80 Weekly ed., July 22, 1865. 

81 Carpenter, "Six Months at the White House"; pp. 291-292. 


in 1867 the resilient Secretary, with his "head like a wise macaw" 
(as Henry Adams described him), was inducing a reluctant Con- 
gress to buy Alaska for $7,200,000— a sum that would have been 
spent on but two or three days of the war during its final year. 

On June 10th, 1867, John H. Surratt, under indictment as a 
party to Lincoln's murder, was brought to trial in the criminal 
court for the District of Columbia. For more than two years his life 
had been one of far-ranging adventure. It was on April 21st, 1866, 
that a certain Henri Beaumont de Ste. Marie, by birth a French- 
Canadian, had called at the United States legation in Rome to in- 
form Minister Rufus King that Surratt, under the name John 
Watson, had enlisted in the 3rd company of Pontifical Zouaves and 
was then with it at Sezze. Ste. Marie declared he had known both 
Surratt and Weichmann in Maryland, and that Weichmann and 
he had been instructors together at St. Matthew's Institute in 
Washington. He said he had later entered the Union army as a 
substitute and been taken prisoner, and when released had gone 
to England, to Canada, and thence to Italy, where he had joined 
the 9th company of the Pontifical Zouaves. 

Although there was no extradition treaty between the United 
States and the Vatican, it was granted that in a case so exceptional 
Zouave John Watson should be delivered up and forthwith he was 
arrested at Veroli, where he happened to be on leave. On Novem- 
ber 8th, 1866, he broke away from his six guards and escaped by 
plunging into a ravine; on the 27th, still in his Zouave uniform, he 
was arrested at Alexandria, Egypt, by United States Consul Hale; 
and on December 21st, without objection by the Egyptian gov- 
ernment, was turned over to Commander Jeffers of the Swatara, 
aboard which vessel he was conveyed back to his native land. His 
trial lasted from June 10th to August 11th, 1867, but the jury dis- 
agreed; four being for conviction, eight for acquittal. Arraigned 
for a second time, he was discharged by the court. Two Balti- 
moreans contributed generously toward his defense, 82 and he after- 
ward made his home in Baltimore, where he was employed as 
auditor by the Old Bay Line (the Baltimore Steam Packet Com- 

"Washington Post, Apr. 3, 1898. 


Booth's memorandum book was not produced in evidence dur- 
ing the Conspiracy Trial. In February 1867 Col. Lafayette C. 
Baker (who meanwhile had retired from his wartime post) was 
summoned to testify before the House Committee on the Judici- 
ary, which was busily gathering evidence looking toward impeach- 
ment of President Johnson. 83 On February 7th, upon examining 
the book, Colonel Baker testified that in his opinion it was not 
then in the condition in which it had been when Conger and he 
delivered it to Stanton on the afternoon of April 26th, 1865. Cards 
and slips of paper, bearing "names of persons in lower Maryland," 
were missing, he said, from the pocket at the back, and so was "a 
drawing of a house." Moreover, he believed that at one place six- 
teen or eighteen leaves had been cut out since the book was 
handed over to the Secretary. He admitted that he had had the 
book in his possession but "a very short time" and that his "recol- 
lection" was "quite indistinct." 84 The Judge Advocate General 
(Holt) told the Committee on April 2nd: 

There was nothing in the diary which I could conceive would be 
testimony against any human being, or for any one except Booth him- 
self, and he being dead, I did not offer it to the Commission. I will 
state that it has been in my possession ever since, and kept locked up 
at my residence almost invariably. It is now in precisely the same con- 
dition that it was when it came into my hands. 

You observe this is an old diary, one which had evidently been a 
good deal used by him. I think it not unlikely that the missing leaves 
contained current entries in regard to his personal matters which he 
did not choose to have exposed, and that he had torn them out himself; 
or there is another theory which may possibly have been the correct 
one; they may have contained entries which compromised his friends 
and co-conspirators, and he for that reason tore them out. 
[Here he read the text of the diary.] 

That is all that is written in the diary, except some figures and letters, 
unintelligible to me, though it is probable they were memoranda 
intended to indicate where he was in his flight on certain days of the 
week and month. 85 

Lieut. Col. E. J. Conger, testifying on May 13th, said that he 
had seen the memorandum book that day and examined it 

83 Articles of impeachment were finally presented to the Senate in March 1868. 

84 House Report; pp. 32-33. 

85 lb.; pp. 285-287. 


closely. He thought it to be in the same general condition as it 
had been when delivered to Stanton. Aboard the steamer, when 
coming from Belle Plain to Washington on April 26th, 1865, he 
had had ample opportunity to inspect Booth's so-called diary— he 
had even made a copy of the text. A few leaves were missing then: 
"There were some out and I think the same." As far as he could 
see, the only difference was that a little bunch of shavings, taken 
from Booth at Garrett's, had been placed in the book. 86 

On May 14th, in reply to an executive order of the 9th, Stanton 
furnished to President Johnson an official copy of the text of the 
Booth diary, certified by Holt. In an accompanying letter, Stanton 
asserted that the book as delivered by Conger and Baker had been 
found to contain "only the entries certified by General Holt, also 
some photographs of females." The Secretary added: 

Immediately preceding the entries some pages appeared to have been 
cut out, but there was nothing indicating what had been written 
thereon or whether anything had been written, nor when or by whom 
they had been cut out. 

Holt's report, submitted with the copy of the diary, conjectured 
quite sensibly: 

The "diary" purports to be one for 1864, and the leaves cut or torn 
from it probably contained entries of that year and were thus destroyed 
by Booth himself. 87 

To anyone who has studied this noted relic at first hand, it 
seems evident that a heavy knife lopped away the missing pages 
in one batch. It is likely that whatever they contained (if any- 
thing) was of a strictly personal nature, for the John Booth of 
1865 had no discernible scruples about involving others in the 
consequences of his treasonable projects. Phrases of bygone dal- 
liance remained among the new entries: Ti amo, Siempre lo 
mismo, Toujours le meme, Amo a ti— as if the writer had been 
setting them down for use in his lighter correspondence. There 
was also a jury-rigged calendar in which Booth had roughly laid 
out the days, beginning with Monday, April 17th (after he had 
gained a refuge in the short pines) and running well into June. 

88 lb.; pp. 323-325, 329. See also his testimony at the Surratt Trial. 
87 Intelligencer, May 21, 1867. Of the "females," four were actresses: Fay (Fanny) 
Brown, Eflie Germon, Alice Grey, Helen Western. 


Each day had been crossed out, from April 17th down to (and 
including) the 25th— before sunrise of the 26th the flight was 

The " diary" is not a diary in any proper sense; but the pen- 
ciled lines, blurred in spots from much handling, form a remark- 
able human document. Here follows the authentic text, from a 
recension of the original. 88 

April 13 — 14 Friday the Ides 
Until to day nothing was ever thought of sacrificing to our country's 
wrongs. For six months we had worked to capture. But our cause being 
almost lost, something decisive & great must be done. But its failure 
was owing to others, who did not strike for their country with a heart. 
I struck boldly and not as the papers say. I walked with a firm step 
through a thousand of his friends, was stopped but pushed on. A 
colonel was at his side. I shouted Sic semper before I fired. In jumping 
broke my leg. I passed all his pickets, rode sixty miles that night with 
the bone of my leg tearing the flesh at every jump. I can never repent 
it, though we hated to kill. Our country owed all her trouble to him, 
and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment. The 
country is not what it was. This forced union is not what I have loved. 
I care not what becomes of me. I have no desire to out-live my country. 
This night (before the deed), I wrote a long article and left it for one 
of the Editors of the National Inteligencer, in which I fully set forth 
our reasons for our proceedings. He or the Govmt 

Friday 21 
After being hunted like a dog through swamps, woods, and last night 
being chased by gun-boats till I was forced to return wet cold and 
starving, with every man's hand against me, I am here in despair. And 
why? For doing what Brutus was honored for. What made Tell a Hero. 
And yet I for striking down a greater tyrant than they ever knew am 
looked upon as a common cutthroat. My action was purer than either 
of theirs. One hoped to be great himself. The other had not only his 
country's but his own wrongs to avenge. I hoped for no gain. I knew 
no private wrong. I struck for my country and that alone. A country 
groaned beneath this tyranny and prayed for this end, and yet now 
behold the cold hand they extend to me. God cannot pardon me if I 
have done wrong. Yet I cannot see any wrong except in serving a 
degenerate people. The little, the very little I left behind to clear my 
name, the Govmt will not allow to be printed. So ends all. For my 
country I have given up all that makes life sweet and Holy, brought 
misery upon my family, and am sure there is no pardon in the Heaven 

88 In the office of the Judge Advocate General, Washington. 


for me since man condemns me so. I have only heard what has been 
done (except what I did myself) and it fills me with horror. God try 
and forgive me, and bless my mother. To night I will once more try 
the river with the intent to cross, though I have a greater desire and 
almost a mind to return to Washington and in a measure clear my 
name, which I feel I can do. I do not repent the blow I struck. I may 
before my God but not to man. 

I think I have done well, though I am abandoned, with the curse of 
Cain upon me. When if the world knew my heart, that one blow would 
have made me great, though I did desire no greatness. 

To night I try to escape these blood hounds once more. Who, who 
can read his fate. God's will be done. 

I have too great a soul to die like a criminal. Oh may he, may he 
spare me that and let me die bravely. 

I bless the entire world. Have never hated or wronged anyone. This 
last was not a wrong, unless God deems it so. And it's with him to damn 
or bless me. And for this brave boy with me who often prays (yes, 
before and since) with a true and sincere heart, was it crime in him, if 
so why can he pray the same. I do not wish to shed a drop of blood, 
but I "must fight the course". 'Tis all that's left me. 

This outpouring falls into two divisions, of which the first— 
apparently cut short by an unexplained interruption— remains in- 
complete. The date in either case signifies little. In the effort to 
preserve a dramatic connection with Shakespeare's Brutus and the 
fateful Ides of March, we have "April 13-14," the Ides of April 
being on the 13th of that month. It was not, of course until the 
15th that "the papers" told of Booth's deed at all; and Booth had 
seen no newspapers until Jones brought some to him. Nor was 
Booth "chased by gun-boats" on Thursday, April 20th; for Jones 
explicitly says that "Wednesday and Thursday passed unevent- 
fully," that he had not "visited the fugitives at night" until Fri- 
day, and that previous to Friday no attempt had been made to get 
Booth and Herold across the river. 

For that matter, Booth on the night of April 14th- 15th had 
ridden not sixty miles but only half that distance; and the bone 
of his leg could not have been "tearing the flesh," inasmuch as 
Doctor Mudd stated that "there was nothing resembling a com- 
pound fracture." Show has been made of reading a portentous 
meaning into the words "I have a greater desire and almost a mind 
to return to Washington and in a measure clear my name, which I 
feel I can do." Sagacious ones have insisted that he must have 


thought to "clear his name" by unmasking accomplices of high 
degree. It was not deemed sufficient to view this remark, in the 
light of the whole tortured and overwrought avowal, as no more 
than the expression of a wild and momentary fancy. Such, never- 
theless, it undoubtedly is. As we scan these jottings in their en- 
tirety, we may say of John Booth, as Goethe did of Hamlet, that 
"he winds, turns, agonizes, advances, and recoils." From the pitia- 
ble incoherence, these revealing sentences emerge: 

"Our country owed all her trouble to him, and God simply made me 
the instrument of his punishment." 

"1 hoped for no gain. I knew no private wrong. I struck for my 
country and that alone/' 

In August 1867 President Johnson dismissed Stanton from of- 
fice and appointed General Grant to be Secretary of War ad in- 
terim until the wishes of Congress might be learned. It was while 
Grant held tenure that Edwin Booth addressed to him this letter: 

Barnum's Hotel 
Septr 11th 
Genl U. S. Grant 


Having once received a promise from Mr Stanton that the family of 
John Wilkes Booth should be permitted to obtain the body when suf- 
ficient time had elapsed, I yielded to the entreaties of my Mother and 
applied for it to the 'Secretary of War' — I fear too soon, for the letter 
was unheeded — if, indeed, it ever reached him. 

I now appeal to you — on behalf of my heart-broken Mother — that 
she may receive the remains of her son. — 

You, sir, can understand what a consolation it would be to an aged 
parent to have the privilege of visiting the grave of her child, and I 
feel assured that you will, even in the midst of your most pressing 
duties, feel a touch of sympathy for her — one of the greatest sufferers 

May I not hope too that you will listen to our entreaties and send me 
some encouragement — some information how and when the remains 
may be obtained? 

By so doing you will receive the gratitude of a most unhappy family, 
and will — I am sure — be justified by all right-thinking minds should 
the matter ever become known to others than ourselves. 


I shall remain in Baltimore two weeks from the date of this letter 
— during which time I could send a trust-worthy person to bring hither 
and privately bury the remains in the family grounds, thus relieving 
my poor mother of much misery. 

Apologizing for my intrusion, and anxiously awaiting a reply to 
this — 
I am, sir, with great respect 

Yr obt sert 

Edwin Booth 

Search made in the files of the War Department at the request of 
Herman H. Kohlsaat, former editor of various newspapers in Chi- 
cago, failed to discover any reference to this appeal, which seem- 
ingly went as unheeded as did the letter to Stanton. By September 
1867 it already had been decided to raze the central section of 
the old penitentiary building and improve the grounds. These 
changes made necessary the removal not only of Booth's body but 
also of five others. Those of Paine, Herold, Atzerodt, and Mrs. 
Surratt had been buried in the penitentiary yard with a fence 
around them and a wooden headboard marking each; and they 
had for neighbor that of Capt. Henry Wirz, one-time commandant 
of Camp Sumter, the Confederate military prison at Anderson- 
ville, Georgia. Brought to trial on August 21st, 1865, under 
charges of inhumanity toward Union prisoners, and found guilty 
on most of the counts, he was hanged at the Old Capitol on No- 
vember 10th. (Wirz's partisans have represented him as "the 
victim of a misdirected popular clamor," and Wirz described him- 
self as the tool of his superiors; but Confederate reports show 
that Andersonville must have justified the remark of Lieut. Col. 
D. T. Chandler, C.S.A.: "This beats anything I ever saw; it is, 
indeed, a hell on earth.") 89 

On October 1st, 1867, all the bodies were transferred to the 
arsenal's "warehouse 1," a building on the eastern side of the 
grounds and little used, and there, within a capacious room having 
stone pavement, heavy iron doors, and walls lined with pigeon- 
holes, they were ranged in a trench about eight feet wide and six 
deep. Booth was put at the right-hand end and, by order of the 

■•Official Records, II, vol. vii, (serial, 120); p. 759. See Chandler's report, ib.; 
pp. 546-550, and Chief Surgeon White's report, pp. 557-560. 


War Department, wooden markers carried the respective names. 
After this burial, the warehouse was kept strictly closed. 90 

Andrew Johnson's vexed term was drawing to its end when 
Edwin Booth sent a third petition. 

N Y February 10 1869 
Andrew Johnson Esq 
President United States 

Dear Sir — 

May I not now ask your kind consideration of my poor Mother's re- 
quest in relation to her son's remains? 

The bearer of this (Mr John Weaver) is sexton of Christ Church, 
Baltimore, who will observe the strictest secrecy in this matter — and 
you may rest assured that none of my family desire its publicity. 

Unable to visit Washington, I have deputed Mr Weaver — in whom I 
have the fullest confidence, and I beg that you will not delay in order- 
ing the body to be given to his care. He will retain it (placing it in 
his vault) until such time as we can remove other members of our 
family to the Baltimore Cemetery, and thus prevent any special notice 
of it. 

There is also (I am told) a trunk of his at the National Hotel — which 
I once applied for but was refused — it being under seal of the War 
Dept., it may contain relics of the poor misguided boy — which would 
be dear to his sorrowing Mother, and of no use to anyone. Your Ex- 
cellency would greatly lessen the crushing weight of grief that is hurry- 
ing my Mother to the grave by giving immediate orders for the safe 
delivery of the remains of John Wilkes Booth to Mr Weaver, and gain 
the lasting gratitude of 

Yr. obt. servt. 

Edwin Booth 

On February 3rd Edwin had launched in New York the new 
Booth's Theatre, the finest in the United States, 91 with a lavish 
production of "Romeo and Juliet," in which he appeared as 
Romeo, Mary McVicker (who in June became his wife) as Juliet, 
Edwin Adams as Mercutio. This ran until April 10th and was fol- 
lowed immediately by Othello. Years later the Century Magazine 
was authorized to correct 92 the frequent but unwarranted state- 
ment that Edwin Booth, in spite of his letter of February 10th, 

90 New York Times, Oct. 4, 30, 1867; Feb. 9, 10, 1869. New York World, Feb. 10, 
14, 16, 1869. Washington Star, Jan. 5, 1907. 

81 At the southeast corner of Sixth Avenue and 23rd Street. 

82 Apr. 1909; p. 920. 


accompanied Weaver. "After the tragedy," the Century said, 
"Edwin Booth never set foot in Washington" except when sub- 
poenaed on behalf of the defendants in the Conspiracy Trial. 

Christ Church (Protestant Episcopal) which the Booths had 
attended and of whose Sunday school John Booth was at one time 
a member, was at the southwest corner of Gay and Fayette Streets, 
and at 22 Fayette Street, near the church, was John H. Weaver's 
cabinetmaking and undertaking establishment. On Friday the 
12th Weaver obtained an audience with President Johnson, and 
Johnson on the ensuing Monday issued this order to Gen. John 
M. Schofield, Secretary of War: 

Executive Mansion, 
February 15th 1869 
The Honorable the Secretary of War will cause to be delivered to Mr. 
John Weaver, Sexton of Christ Church, Baltimore, the remains of John 
Wilkes Booth, for the purposes mentioned in the within communica- 

Andrew Johnson 

The following order was in turn dispatched from the office of 
Gen. E. D. Townsend, Assistant Adjutant-General: 

War Dept 
Feby 15, 1869 
Bvt Maj Gen G. D. Ramsay, 
U. S. Army, 

Comdg Washington Arsenal 
City of Washington 

The President directs that the body of John Wilkes Booth, interred 
at the Washington Arsenal, be delivered to Mr John Weaver, Sexton 
of Christ-Church Baltimore, Md. — for the purpose of having it re- 
moved and properly interred. 

Please report the execution of this order. 

I am Sec 

A. A. G. 

Weaver had sought the aid of Harvey and Marr, a local under- 
taking firm at 335 F Street, around the corner from what had 
been Ford's Theatre; and W. R. Speare, a youth in the firm's 
employ who later set up for himself as undertaker, was instructed 
to go to the arsenal that afternoon with a light furniture van. 


About four o'clock he was joined by Weaver and R. F. Harvey, 
who drove to the grounds in a carriage, and Weaver then had a 
brief interview with Captain Phipps, officer of the day at the post. 
At "warehouse 1" the storekeeper opened the great iron doors and 
led the way into the high-ceilinged room that had served as burial 
vault. Two bodies, those of Mrs. Surratt and Davy Herold, al- 
ready had been taken out and given to the claimants empowered 
to receive them; and in this protected spot there was an odor of 
earth freshly dug. 

After a little spade work, men of the Ordnance Corps raised to 
the surface without difficulty the pine case at the right-hand end 
of the trench. It was but slightly decayed; and when the thick 
coating of soil had been dislodged, the name JOHN WILKES 
BOOTH in black-painted capitals was readily legible. All was in 
order, as the War Department had provided. Four soldiers carried 
the box to the van, and about six o'clock, as the streets of Wash- 
ington filled with people bound homeward, the van drew up to 
Harvey and Marr's back door and stood in the very alley from 
which John Booth had dashed, that April night of 1865. 93 

The box was taken into Harvey and Marr's workshop by assist- 
ants, among whom was a volunteer, James Croggon, reporter for 
the Star. Harvey had said to Croggon: "Don't ask any questions, 
but be at our place at six o'clock this evening as one of my assist- 
ants, and you will get a good item." 94 Croggon was there, helped 
to lay the box on trestles, and watched as the body was identified 
for the third time. He saw Weaver lift the head and examine it- 
it still had the "fine suit of hair," distinctive as in life. He saw a 
man enter from the office and intently study the teeth, heard him 
announce with emphasis: "This is Wilkes Booth, for this is some 
of my work." It was a dentist from Baltimore, whose opinion had 
been sought in the case. The reporter also saw a high boot on one 
leg and on one a rough shoe which he mistakenly thought had 
been improvised by cutting away the other boot's long top. He 
understood that a brother of John's was in Harvey and Marr's 

93 World (New York), Feb. 9, 1869 (P- »)> Feb. 16, p. 1. Sun (New York), Feb. 17 
(p. 1). Intelligencer, Feb. 16 (p. 3). Washington Evening Star, Jan. 5, 1907. 

"Croggon (1835-1916) was active on the Star from 1862 to 1894, and wrote special 
articles until 1915. 

From a photograph in the Robinson Locke Collection, New York Public Library 



(At the rear of the large monument may be seen one end of an ivy-covered 
mound, with a rosebush on it. Under that mound John Booth was buried) 


front room. It was not Edwin, as he supposed, but "Doc" Booth, 
awaiting the reports of Weaver and the dentist. 95 

Shifted to a plain deal coffin, the body was conveyed to the train 
leaving Washington at seven-thirty and reaching Baltimore at 
nine. From the train it was removed to Weaver's on Fayette 
Street, and that night John T. Ford, who had been keeping gen- 
eral oversight of the matter, sent a telegram marked "Deliver to- 
night sure." It read (as delivered): 

Balto Md Feb 15 1869 
Edwin Booth 

Booths Theatre N Y 

Successful and in our possession here 

J T Ford 

Edwin saved this message in his files, and on the reverse of the 
blank he penciled: "John's body." 96 

Next day General Ramsay forwarded this notice to General 

Washington Arsenal, 

Washington, D. C, Feby 16th 


Maj. Gen. E. D. Townsend 
Asst. Adjt. General U. S. Army 
Washington D. C. 

I have the honor to report that the body of John Wilkes Booth was, 
on Monday afternoon the 15th inst., delivered to the person designated 
in the order of the President of the United States of the same date. 
I am, Sir, 

Very respectfully 
Your Obdt. Servt. 
Geo D Ramsay 
Bvt. Maj. Gen. U. S. 


Everything had been regular. At the Garrett farm and aboard 
the Montauk the body had been identified past doubt. While in 

95 Star, Jan. 5, 1907; pt. 3, p. 1. 

88 From the original, by courtesy of The Players, New York. 


the War Department's possession it had been carefully marked 
and thoroughly secured. The same body had now been given up 
without obstacle or evasion. 97 

The privacy Edwin Booth so much desired was quickly invaded. 
Early on Tuesday the 16th a crowd assembled in the vicinity of 
Weaver's and by afternoon hundreds of curious persons visited 
the place. Many were allowed to view the body. Souvenir hunters 
cut away pieces of blanket and locks of hair. Throughout the city, 
John Booth was a subject of general talk. 98 The Booth lot, where 
lay Richard and Junius Brutus the elder, was in the old Baltimore 
Cemetery, and the morning's Sun had informed Baltimoreans that 
John's remains would be deposited there. Hence, to the annoy- 
ance of cemetery officials, throngs flocked to Baltimore Cemetery 
all day long and streamed back again in disappointment. The 
body, in what the Sun described as "a handsome mahogany case, 
with hinged lid and glass plate," 99 remained for two days in a 
back room at Weaver's and was identified with extraordinary 

On Wednesday the 17th a rehearsal was in full swing at the 
Holliday Street Theatre when Manager John T. Ford appeared. 
In an undertone he exchanged a few words with Charles B. 
Bishop, at that time a member of the company. (Bishop, a well- 
liked comedian, was also a good friend of Edwin Booth's.) Then 
he turned to Blanche Chapman, saying: "Blanche, I want you to 
keep your eyes and ears open but your mouth shut." With Bishop 
he marshaled Miss Chapman and her sister Ella out of the stage 
entrance, and the four crossed the street to Weaver's undertaking 
rooms. They passed through the front room into a smaller one at 
the back, and among those gathered there Blanche at once recog- 
nized the grief-stricken Mary Ann Booth and Rosalie, John's older 
sister, with both of whom she had become well acquainted in 
New York. Dr. J. A. Booth, too, was in the group, and John H. 
Weaver, and Harry Ford, whom Blanche was later to marry 
though as yet she was not engaged. 

She next was aware of what seemed the focus of interest— a 

97 All the other bodies were released from the custody of the War Department and 
interred in various Washington graveyards. 

08 New York Times, Feb. 17, 1869; p. 1. Baltimore Sim, June 4, 1903; p. 12. 

09 Feb. 17th; p. 1. 


coffined body. The lips had receded, making conspicuous a fine 
set of teeth; and the head, with its parchmentlike skin, was topped 
by an abundance of jet-black, wavy hair. Weaver had a chart 
showing the work done by the Baltimore dentist, and this he 
handed to "Doc" Booth, who passed it to Bishop. Bishop care- 
fully drew out a tooth that newspapers afterward referred to as 
"peculiarly plugged"— the filling being characteristic enough to 
be regarded as evidential. ("Doc" Booth knew of it through the 
dentist's report at Harvey and Marr's, if not before.) After that, 
the left leg was inspected. Bishop unwrapped what Miss Chapman 
judged was a bandage; she noticed the shoe on that foot; and the 
men all gazed at the injured leg and were satisfied. 

At Weaver's request, Blanche, with scissors he provided, cut 
from the brow a generous lock of hair. Mary Ann Booth took it, 
gave a strand to Blanche, another to Ella. Blanche had not known 
John Booth, but Harry Ford, who had been his friend, told 
Blanche that in its contours and features the head was unmis- 
takably John's— that additional proof had really been unnecessary. 
The Booths were convinced; so was John T. Ford, who (as he 
said) had known John "since childhood" and was not likely to be 
deceived. 100 

During the two days, February 16th and 17th, many others iden- 
tified the body. Among these was Norval E. Foard (1837-1906), a 
newspaperman who had joined the staff of the Baltimore Sun in 
1865, who for many years was state editor of that paper, and 
whose knowledge of Maryland affairs was considered "truly re- 
markable." 101 He visited Weaver's in company with John T. Ford, 
Maj. Thomas W. Hall, also of the Sun, and John W. McCoy, a 
local businessman. The detached head, Foard said, was passed 
around and looked upon 102 — in somewhat the fashion that John, 
as Hamlet, might have looked upon Yorick's skull. McCoy, Hall, 
and Foard saw the matted black hair, the teeth; they listened as 
John T. Ford called attention to the firm outline of the lower jaw 
that still "bore resemblance to the living man." They scanned the 
high boot on one leg, the shoe like "an army brogan" on the foot 

100 Interview of the present writer with Blanche Chapman at Rutherford, New 
Jersey, in 1938. 

101 G. W. Johnson (and others), "The Sunpapers of Baltimore"; pp. 220-221. 

102 Baltimore Su?i, June 4, 1903; p. 12. 


of the other. They agreed with John T. Ford that there could be 
no reasonable doubt as to the body's genuineness. 

So did two young men of Baltimore who had known John 
Booth from the days when they had been fellow-actors with him 
in juvenile theatricals of which he was a leading spirit. They were 
Dr. Theodore Micheau and Henry W. Mears. Mears, who lived 
until December 22nd, 1938, always protested that the identity of 
the body at Weaver's was beyond suspicion. He said that Basil 
("Bas") Moxley, doorkeeper at the Holliday Street Theatre (later, 
for many years, at Ford's Opera House), who viewed the body 
when Mears himself did, raised no question whatever at that 
time. 103 Moxley also told the Fords that he was confident the body 
was John's. 

It was not until the spring of 1903, after the press had for 
weeks been agog with stories of how Booth (under the name of 
David E. George) had committed suicide in Oklahoma, that Mox- 
ley, then nearly eighty years of age and rather crotchety, made in 
the Baltimore American what that paper termed a ''remarkable 
disclosure." 104 The "disclosure" was remarkable in more ways 
than one. 

"You can search all records in Washington," Moxley asserted, 
"or interview any officials then in office who are now alive and I 
will wager you will be unable to learn of any reward being paid 
out for the delivery of John Wilkes Booth's body to the govern- 
ment." This was false, and Moxley would have lost his bet. He 
told a rambling yarn to the effect that he had been present at a 
meeting between Edwin Booth and a private detective, when the 
detective showed Edwin "four letters, all of which were from re- 
liable persons living in Maryland and Virginia, assuring the actor 
that his brother was not dead." Also he mentioned "several rumors 
to the effect that John had been seen at the crossroads near Pen- 
Mar," 105 and told of having "heard men say that they had drunk 
with him in that locality." 

He was now saying that the body had red hair, was "not that 
of the assassin but that of another man forwarded to Baltimore by 

103 From Mears' statement for the present writer. 

104 June 3, 6. 

106 In Franklin County, Pennsylvania, on the Maryland border. 


the Government." 106 Whereat Norval E. Foard gave it as his opin- 
ion that "if Mr. Moxley saw the remains in the Weaver shop and 
says the hair was red he is color blind." 107 

Joseph T. Lowry, a Baltimore photographer, informed the spe- 
cial correspondent of the Boston Herald: 

I was in the undertaking establishment of Mr. Weaver when the body 
of Booth was received from Washington. I had seen Booth play 20 
times at the Holliday Street Theatre and knew him well by sight. 
There was not the slightest doubt in my mind that the face of the dead 
man I looked upon was that of the actor, whom I had seen many times 
in life. The features were the same, although considerably sunken. His 
dark hair, which was remarkably thick and curly, was well preserved. 108 

Col. William M. Pegram, who had known John Booth for years, 
viewed the body on the morning of February 16th. In a paper 
read at the Maryland Historical Society's meeting on October 
13th, 1913, 109 Colonel Pegram referred to the "cavalry boot" on 
the right leg and the shoe on the opposite foot— he called it a 
"manufactured" shoe because he presumed, as did Croggon at 
Harvey and Marr's in Washington, that it had been extemporized 
from the left boot. (We know, of course, that the left boot, marked 

"J. Wilkes " on its inner facing of white calfskin, had been 

discovered at Mudd's, intact except for the slit the Doctor had cut 
in removing it.) Pegram furthermore alluded to "the splendid 
teeth" and the heavy growth of coal-black hair. His impression 
was, as he elsewhere phrased it, that "Everything about the re- 
mains told of the man," no and this was attested by Henry C. 
Wagner, also of Baltimore, who had gone with Pegram to Weaver's 
that day. 

On the morning of Thursday, February 13th, the body was 
quietly placed in a vault in Green Mount Cemetery— a vault be- 

108 Baltimore Sun, Mar. 13, 1906. 

107 lb., June 4, 1903; p. 12. Faded black hair tends to take on a reddish cast. 
("Since the color of hair is a compound color," said Dr. Clark Wissler of the 

American Museum of Natural History in a letter to the present writer, "I suppose 
this means that the red in the original color fades last.") Any ruddy tinge, after 
a period of years, would thus be accounted for in authentic specimens of John 
Booth's hair. 

108 Correspondence dated Mar. 7, 1903 (John T. Ford Papers). 

109 Printed in the Maryland Historical Magazine, Dec. 1913; pp. 327-331. 

110 Baltimore Sun, June 5, 1903. 


longing to John H. Weaver and used as a depository by him and 
other local undertakers, a charge of $2.00 a month or fraction 
thereof being made in each instance. On this occasion no one was 
present but Weaver and his assistants. The vault was not a large 
one, and the coffins in it were piled one upon another. Finally 
given up, sealed, and covered with earth, it merged into the grassy 
hillside. It was there, as the stub of Weaver's own record book 
manifests, that John's body was lodged until the fuss was over and 
Edwin's plans could be realized. 111 

Executive pardon already had been granted to Dr. Samuel A. 
Mudd, and on March 2nd President Johnson signed the pardons 
of Samuel Arnold and Edman Spangler. 112 Mudd, released from 
Fort Jefferson on March 8th, arrived at Key West on the 12th, and 
got back to his home on the 20th. 113 Spangler and Arnold reached 
Baltimore on April 6th. 114 Michael O'Laughlin did not return- 
he had died in Fort Jefferson on September 23rd, 1867, during an 
epidemic of yellow fever. On June 17th, 1869, Miss Anna E. Sur- 
ratt was married in Washington to William Tonry, a chemist in 
the office of the Surgeon-General. "The bride," the Baltimore Sun 
reported, 115 "was attended by her brother Isaac, while John H. 
Surratt occupied a pew in front of the altar." That same day the 
body of Junius Brutus Booth the elder was transferred from the 
Baltimore Cemetery to Green Mount and there buried in newly 
acquired ground (a certificate of ownership made out to Mary 
Ann Booth was dated June 13th). The body of Richard Booth also 
was reburied in Green Mount, and presumably at the same time. 
According to the Sim/ 16 John's body was to follow "during the 
latter part of next week." Junius' monument was brought from 
the old cemetery. 

The committal service for John was held on the afternoon of 
Saturday, June 26th. "At the especial request of the family," in 

111 Baltimore Sun, Feb. 19, 1869; p. 1. Statements of David W. Jenkins, funeral 
director, Baltimore, for the present writer. 

112 New York Times, Mar. 4. 

113 "Life"; pp. 318-320. 

114 Baltimore Sun, Apr. 7. 

115 June 18. 

116 June 19; p. 1. 


the words of the Sun's account, 117 the body was carried from the 
vault by pallbearers chosen from "members of the theatrical pro- 
fession" who had known the deceased. "Among these was Mr. 
Gallagher, who, it is stated, is the only surviving pallbearer of 
those who assisted at the burial of Junius Brutus Booth, nearly 
seventeen years ago." The Sun continued: 

About forty or fifty persons were assembled at the grave, including 
relatives and friends of the family, the larger portion being ladies. . . . 
The Rev. Fleming James, assistant minister at St. Luke's Hospital, New 
York, robed in gown and surplice, officiated, standing at the head of 
the grave and reading the simple and beautiful service of the dead 
according to the ritual of the Protestant Episcopal Church. . . . The 
family seemed to feel keenly the grief of the occasion, and had the heart- 
felt sympathy of those present. 118 

Mary Ann Booth was there, with Rosalie, Edwin, and Junius. 
Asia had departed with her husband to England, where she was to 
end her days. Norval E. Foard was present and saw the burial in 
a grave at the rear of the elder Booth's obelisk. "There was no 
question of the fact then," said Foard in 1903, "nor is there any 
room for doubt now that the remains . . . buried in Greenmount 
Cemetery under the conditions I have described were those of 
John Wilkes Booth." 119 The stub from the record book of John 
H. Weaver (who knew John Booth and helped to identify the 
body) has this straightforward entry: 120 

No. 560 

Baltimore, Feby 18 th , 1869 
Body of J Wilks Booth 
Taken out June 26 th 1869 

Aged 27 years 



117 June 28; p. 1. 

118 See also the New York Times, June 28; p. 1, and New York Commercial Ad- 
vertiser or Sun of that date. 

119 Baltimore Sun, June 4, 1903; p. 12. Henry W. Mears, who directed a number of 
burials in the lot, confirmed the statement as to John's grave. 

120 In a fragment of the book, among the Nolen Lincolniana of the Harvard Col- 
lege Library. 


The dust of three infant children (Frederick, Elizabeth, Mary 
Ann), recently disinterred at the Belair farm, was lowered in one 
small coffin into the grave with John. Their names were cut below 
his on the white shaft; and Henry Byron's name was placed there, 
too, although he had been buried at Pentonville in England. 121 
The Sun found the new burial-place to be in a very "eligible" 
spot, "in the vale near the spring, to the right of the chapel, and 
within easy access of one of the main drives." 

John Booth when living had brought trouble to many, and now 
this service in Green Mount, as Norval Foard remarked, "brought 
trouble to the minister." The Rev. Fleming James had been ad- 
mitted to deacon's orders in Virginia in 1868, and in 1869 was 
assistant to the Rev. William A. Muhlenberg, superintendent and 
pastor of St. Luke's Hospital in New York. 122 At the time of the 
Booth obsequies, he had been visiting his friend the Rev. Thomas 
U. Dudley, rector of Christ Church. Upon his return to New York, 
he learned that officials of the hospital were (to quote Foard) 
"shocked that he gave Christian burial to the assassin of the Presi- 
dent." The following open letter from the Rev. Mr. James ap- 
peared in the New York Times: 123 


Finding that my officiating at the reinterment of the remains of 
J. Wilkes Booth, as reported in the public prints, has given great 
offence to the authorities and others of St. Luke's Hospital, in which I 
have been assistant to the pastor, I beg publicly to offer a few words of 

I happened to be in Baltimore, and was at the house of a brother 
clergyman, when he was suddenly called upon to read the burial service 
on the above-named occasion. As he was just going out of town, he re- 
quested me to do it for him. I consented, having but a few moments 
for reflection, and seeing no good reason for refusing. Had I imagined 
that my action would have been followed by such unpleasant conse- 
quences here, I should have felt bound to consult my duty to the hos- 
pital rather than to a strange parish. I regret I did not foresee this, and 

121 This presumably is why the Green Mount records have "six bodies" instead 
of five, as removed from elsewhere. 

122 Spokesmen for the hospital and for the registrar's office of the Diocese of New 
York informed the present writer that their files contained no reference to James. 

-July 2; p. 5. 


will only add that my Southern feelings had nothing to do with the 
matter. I acted wholly from a sense of duty at the time. I need scarcely 
say that I have no sympathy with the assassination of which the de- 
ceased was guilty. 

I leave the hospital with the best wishes for its continued prosperity, 
and with the satisfaction of knowing, as the venerable pastor allows me 
to say, that my services have been acceptable, and that I enjoyed the 
affectionate esteem of the household. 

New- York, June 30, 1869. 

Forced to resign his post in New York, the Rev. Mr. James was 
for a time assistant to the Rev. A. M. Randolph at Emmanuel 
Church in Baltimore, and later was chosen rector of St. Mark's, 
to succeed the Rev. H. H. Hewitt. He brought letters dismissory 
from Virginia, where he had been admitted to priest's orders. 
Subsequently he held professorships in theological schools at Gam- 
bier, Ohio, and in Philadelphia. 124 It is gratifying to know that 
this liberal and honest young minister's career of usefulness was 
not seriously interrupted by an episode in which he figured to 
such advantage. Note should also be made of the fact that the 
Episcopal service had been read over the body of David E. Herold 
in Washington on February 15th by the Rev. J. Vaughn Lewis of 
St. John's Church, often styled "the President's church" because 
many a President had worshiped there. 

We should naturally assume that the Fords could not have been 
imposed upon, that John T. Ford would not have attempted to 
delude his friend Edwin Booth, and that Fords and Booths would 
not have been parties to a mock burial. Knowing also that John 
Booth's corpse had been identified four several times and with 
an uncommon thoroughness for which some evidence already has 
been offered in these pages, we may justly conclude that no basis 
exists in fact for the persistent story that the interment in Green 
Mount on June 26th, 1869, "was not that of the assassin, but that 
of another man forwarded to Baltimore by the Government." 

In his later years, when living on a farm near Fairhaven in Anne 

134 Journals of the Council in Virginia and of the Maryland Convention (Prot- 
estant Episcopal Church). Statement of Dr. Fleming James, New Haven, for the 
present writer. Baltimore Sun, June 5, 1903; p. 7. 


Arundel County (Maryland), Samuel Arnold stated he knew posi- 
tively that John's body rested in Green Mount. 125 Though Arnold 
had not reached home until April 6th, 1869, members of his fam- 
ily and of O'Laughlin's presumably had viewed the body as it lay 
in Weaver's back room from the evening of February 15th until 
the morning of the 18th; and both families had known John 
Booth. From a highly trustworthy private source the present writer 
has learned that Dr. J. A. Booth "on several occasions" declared 
that the body in Green Mount was without question his brother's. 

Henry W. Mears, who afterward, as a funeral director, occupied 
the premises that Weaver had used and who vigorously scouted 
the notion that the body might have been fraudulent, gave a 
clue 126 as to how gossip in Baltimore may have borne a part in 
spreading that notion. A few men, some of whom had been officers 
in the Confederate service, expressed distrust; partly, it may be, 
from the circumstance that the body, as delivered in Baltimore, 
was enveloped in an army blanket and wore on one foot a coarse 
shoe described as an army brogan; partly, we may assume, because 
they were not unwilling to bring reproach upon a Yankee War 
Department. At the North there had been grisly talk of Union 
soldiers' bones crushed to make fertilizer for the South, of their 
skulls wrought into drinking cups and displayed as trophies; and 
Southerners had told gruesome anecdotes of contractors utilizing 
skeletons of mules to fill out shipments of coffins sent to Northern 
communities by the authorities in Washington. Why suppose that 
those authorities would be punctilious about the body of Lin- 
coln's murderer? 

From time to time the stubborn myth received fresh accre- 
tions. Thus John Parshall (who died in Indianapolis in 1897) con- 
fided that he was one of six to whom the final disposition of the 
body had been entrusted. He was the last of the band, he said; 
and like the others he passed on and kept the mystery unre- 
vealed. 127 A Capt. E. W. Hillard of Metropolis, Illinois, alleged 
that he was one of four privates who carried the remains from the 
Old Capitol prison to a gunboat that conveyed them about ten 

125 Baltimore correspondence of the Boston Herald, dated Mar. 7, 1903 (John T. 
Ford Papers). 

126 In his statement for the present writer. 

127 New York Times, Mar. 18, 1897. 


miles down the Potomac, where they were sunk. Captain Hillard's 
romancing stirred Henry W. Mears to emphatic denial. 128 

Another military gentleman, Col. James H. Davidson of Chi- 
cago, termed chief of the 122nd Infantry during the Civil War, 
said he was in command at Portsmouth, Virginia, when a report 
was brought to him about "a group of men" behaving strangely 
during the night "around one of the warehouses." Next morning 
Col. L. C. Baker sought an interview with him. 

"Last night," Baker informed him, "I brought into Portsmouth 
the body of Booth. Six of my men carried it on a stretcher to the 
first warehouse to the north. We took it into the basement, where 
we dug a grave. The body was placed in there and covered with 
acid. Then the grave was filled with limestone and dirt. Every 
man of us is pledged to secrecy. Will you promise never to say a 

"That," Colonel Davidson reflected, "was sixty years ago. There 
can't be any harm in telling it now. The country ought to 
know." 129 

In volubility these all were outdone by Edwin H. Sampson of 
Moline, Illinois. Sampson recited that he was one of four guards 
—Colonel Baker's men— protecting Lincoln at Ford's Theatre on 
the night of April 14th. (Lincoln "sat in a box and we went into 
the parquet.") He was also at Garrett's, where Booth was killed by 
a volley fired into the barn as ordered by Colonel Baker. He con- 

On the night of April 24P] the Secretary of War told Col. Baker to 
take one man and dispose of the body between daylight and dark. Col. 
Baker ordered me to go with him. Between the hours of 1 and 3 Col. 
Baker and I disposed of the remains of John Wilkes Booth. We left in 
darkness and returned in darkness. I can swear that no other man 
knows where we went. And I can swear that no man ever will know. 
I have kept the secret and I will die with it in my heart. 130 

It was said that Sampson (who claimed to have been a sergeant 
in the First United States Cavalry) once gave at Rock Island an 
address in which he declared that he alone knew where John 
Booth's grave was. One Houston Booth of Galesburg (who main- 

128 New York Sun, Jan. 13, 1903. 

129 Herald Tribune (New York), Feb. 22, 1922. 

130 New York World, Mar. 8, 1925. 


tained he was a cousin of John's) subsequently disputed this and 
announced his positive knowledge that John, having outwitted 
his pursuers, escaped to Oklahoma, and there died of old age. 

The obvious impossibility of reconciling any two of these var- 
ious accounts by no means discouraged the myth-fanciers, who 
rallied around the time-worn adage concerning smoke and fire. 
The fire in this case was not the flame of truth. Minor fictions, 
however inconsistent, were welcomed— such as that of a midnight 
burial in Green Mount. According to one version, 131 the body did 
not arrive in Baltimore until noon of February 17th, 1869; was 
taken from Weavers' the next evening at exactly eleven-forty-five; 
and was buried in Green Mount at "the very witching time of 
night." Oddly enough, the centennial book issued by the proprie- 
tors of Green Mount has it that the removal from Washington and 
the interment in Green Mount were "accomplished secretly." So 
far as Baltimore was concerned, the removal turned out to be, as 
we have seen, a rather public affair. As for the interment, the Balti- 
more Sun on Saturday, June 19th, 1869, proclaimed that "the 
body of J. Wilkes Booth will be buried during the latter part of 
next week" (it was buried on the afternoon of Saturday, the 26th), 
and on Monday the 28th reported the interment at considerable 
length, noting that about "forty or fifty persons were assembled." 
The rites were hardly clandestine, to say the least. 

The story of burial by proxy is of a more or less stereotyped 
and familiar pattern. Rumors had started in much the same way 
in 1825 as to Alexander the First of Russia. It was said he had 
not died in that year at Taganrog in the Crimea; that a soldier 
who resembled him and conveniently had just died was placed in 
the Tsar's coffin (or, as another version ran, one of the monarch's 
couriers was killed for the purpose); and that a hermit who lived 
at Tomsk in Siberia and died there as late as 1864 was really the 
Emperor. So, too, years later, rumors were current that the body 
laid away in the gloomy Habsburg crypt in 1889 was not the 
Archduke Rudolf's. 

When the Rev. Fleming James read the committal service for 
John Booth on that summer day of 1869, the beautiful little 

131 New York Times, Feb. 26, 1911. 


Gothic mortuary chapel, with its pinnacles, topped the hill from 
which those acres derived their name; but the city had not yet 
encroached on the place, and at that distance the city's voices were 
faint. As years passed, men and women of distinction were re- 
ceived at Green Mount— Elizabeth Patterson, wedded in 1803 to 
Jerome Bonaparte, whom his brother Napoleon made the puppet 
king of a counterfeit realm; Harriet Johnston, who as Harriet 
Lane had queened it at the President's House in the term of her 
uncle, James Buchanan; Sidney Lanier, who had fought for the 
South but whose poetry won national recognition; John McDon- 
ogh, who planned to free slaves; John E. Owens, the favorite 
comedian, immensely popular as Solon Shingle in J. S. Jones' 
"The People's Lawyer"; Gen. J. E. Johnston of the Confederate 
army, who put his name to final articles of surrender on the day 
when John Booth was killed. But it may truly be said that no 
other spot within these boundaries has ever held such general in- 
terest as has that known officially as "lots 9 and 10, 'Dogwood' 

Henry Mears, after he had taken charge of it, once discussed 
with Edwin Booth some proposed changes. 

At length, "How about John's grave?" asked John's former play- 
mate and friend. 

"Leave that as it is," was Edwin's answer. 

So it was left, with no headstone or "marker" to denote the 
exact spot. Only in that sense, however, was the grave "un- 
marked." Col. Frank Burr, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer 
in 1881, 132 referred not only to an ivy-covered mound where the 
elder Booth lay but also to "a second ivy-covered mound," with a 
rosebush on it, at the rear of the monument. (Richard Booth's 
grave had a flat slab of its own.) As late as 1889, 133 this mound 
would appear to have been there. At some time after that the ivy 
disappeared and the ground was leveled. 

The interment of John Booth was without trickery or stealth, 
but no barriers of evidence, no limits of reason ever halted the 
Great American Myth. It has often enough been whispered that 

133 Dec. 4; p. 1. 

133 By that time, the graves of Asia and Rosalie, each with an ivied mound, were 
in the lot. Mary Ann Booth (d. 1885) was placed in the same grave as her hus- 


in the mausoleum at Springfield the coffin of Abraham Lincoln 
is empty. 

Among the records of the War Department is a statement by 
Junius Booth in April 1865, containing these words: 

Saw his brother in Washington in February last and was told by him 
that he had played there one night, in borrowed clothes, 134 having pre- 
viously shipped his Theatrical Wardrobe to the South, while in Can- 
ada, and had otherwise disposed of much of his property, intending in 
the future, to reside and play in the South: but the vessel containing 
his property having been sunk by a gun boat, had changed his purpose, 
and induced him to devote his attention to the Oil business, in which 
he expected to be quite successful. 

It had indeed been thought that the schooner in which the ward- 
robe was shipped to Nassau had been sunk by a Federal cruiser; 135 
but on June 6th the Quebec Mercury printed an item to the ef- 
fect that by virtue of a commission of inspection obtained from 
the Vice-Admiralty Court on behalf of the United States consul 
at Quebec, three trunks had been brought to Quebec from below 
Bic. They were John Booth's trunks, which during the previous 
fall had been shipped from Montreal for Nassau and were des- 
tined for Richmond. The schooner had, however, been wrecked, 
the account said; and the trunks had been taken to Bic by the 
salvors. What has been described as an extensive and costly theatri- 
cal wardrobe was found to have been almost completely ruined by 
salt water. Besides the wardrobe, there were also letters and papers 
of John's. 136 

Garrie Davidson, Edwin Booth's personal attendant at Booth's 
Theatre, once told Otis Skinner how after a performance early 
in 1873 Edwin had asked to be wakened at three the next morn- 
ing and then had gone up to his rooms over the stage. At three, 
Edwin and Garrie descended to the furnace room, where stood a 
large trunk, "like a packing case." In this were costumes of John's 
—musty but still handsome: a robe for Othello, wrought of two 
East Indian shawls so fine they could have been drawn through a 

134 This was on Jan. 20, 1865, when he played Romeo at Avonia Jones' benefit at 

135 Daily News (New York), Apr. 27, 1865; p. 5. 
130 See the New York Herald, June 10, 1865. 


bracelet; an American Indian outfit, with a photograph of John 
wearing it— the picture dated Richmond 1859-1860 ("I guess that 
was Metamora," said Garrie); and many others— and there were 
daggers, swords, wigs, and a pair of lady's satin dancing slippers. 
Every article was thrust into the furnace, while Edwin watched; 
then the trunk itself was burned. 137 

Writing of this holocaust, Skinner called it "The Last of John 
Wilkes Booth"— but it was hardly that, even in a material sense. 
Many things that belonged to John Booth are still in existence; 
and his strange, disordered spirit lives on with the spirit of Abra- 
ham Lincoln. 

137 American Magazine, Nov. 1908; pp. 73-77. 

Twelve . • FALSE colors and shapes 

HAD there been no Garrett's, no flame in the night, no mooted 
bullet, no guarded burial, yet a survival tale of some kind there 
doubtless would have been, since Booth returned to Washington 
City as a bedraggled corpse fetched by silent men out of the dark- 
ness that hid the long reaches of the Potomac. 

In the New York Times of January 12th, 1867, a letter from 
James E. Campbell gave some color to the rumor that it was not 
Booth's corpse that was brought up the Potomac in the night. In 
a Calcutta hotel, six months before, Campbell (so he wrote) had 
heard a Bostonian arguing with a Southerner, who declared: "I 
will lay a wager of five hundred pounds that John Wilkes Booth, 
who assassinated President Lincoln, is alive and in good health at 
the present time; and agree to furnish proof of it within six 
months." Campbell was informed that the Southerner was Lieut. 
William Martin Tolbert of the Shenandoah, a Confederate priva- 
teer which had ranged the South Pacific. 1 

Campbell's narrative was reprinted in other American journals. 
Tolbert, it was said, had learned that Booth was in hiding in 
Ceylon. Apparently no effort was made to verify the story. 2 No 
Tolbert is in the "Register of Officers of the Confederate States 
Navy"; nor in the full descriptive list of the Shenandoah's officers, 
sent from England to the American press. 3 

1 Times, Jan. 12, 1867; p. 8. The letter was dated Jan. 10 at New York. 

2 See Izola Forrester's "This One Mad Act." 

3 The Register was compiled by the Office of Naval Records and the Library of 

the Navy Department; revised ed., 1931 The descriptive list is in the New York 

Herald, Nov. 21, 1865; p. 5. 



In a few months the World of New York was saying 4 that Booth 
"like that phantom ship, the Flying Dutchman, is from time to 
time, reported to have been seen in propria persona in various 
parts of the world; the latest story being that he is now the captain 
of a pirate vessel and the terror of the China seas. At intervals the 
press informs the public that some reliable correspondents have 
seen the notorious assassin in Europe. One time he has been seen 
playing rouge et noir at Baden Baden; another at the opera in 
Vienna. One positively swears that he saw him driving in the Bois 
de Boulogne at Paris. And another is equally confident that he 
beheld him visiting St. Peter's at Rome." 

Much more detailed was the story that appeared in the Missouri 
Republican of St. Louis for September 7th, 1873. It was an inter- 
view with Carroll Jackson Donelson, an old sailor claiming to be 
"a blood relative of Andrew Jackson Donelson, who died recently 
in Memphis." 5 

After service in the Confederate army, C. J. Donelson had 
shipped, he said, as first mate out of San Francisco for Shanghai. 
On reaching the Pelew Islands "near the tenth parallel," 6 he and 
a boat's crew went ashore in search of water and discovered six 
white persons, five men and a woman. "The first one that advanced 
toward me and held out his hand," said Donelson, "was John 
Wilkes Booth. There was no mistaking his identity as I had been 
an intimate friend of his in Montgomery, Ala., years before." 

Donelson promised not to tell "for a period of one year" that he 
had seen Booth. Of his own party, Booth said, none knew who he 
was save the "female." "And she is my wife." For thirty days after 
the murder he had been in Washington City; but he did not say 
where he had hidden or how he got out of the country. His exten- 
sive wanderings had led him to Mexico, South America, Africa, 
Turkey, Arabia, Italy, and China. At Rome he met John H. 
Surratt. In China, under the command of Frederick Ward, who 
organized an imperial army against the Taiping rebels, he had 
fought with such distinction as to gain the favor of the emperor 

4 Aug. 17, 1867; p. 8. 

6 A. J. Donelson died on June 26, 1871. 

6 The eighth parallel intersects the Pelews. 


In Shanghai he joined a group of English and American resi- 
dents and naval officers in an amateur dramatics club. Playing the 
title role in "Richard III," he stirred such enthusiasm that at the 
clash between Richard and Richmond in the final scene of the last 
act the audience burst into frantic applause. High above the din 
sounded cries of "Booth! Booth!" Sword in air, John turned to 
"glare like a tiger" at the house, and the curtain was quickly rung 

Next day Ward put at Booth's disposal a lorcha and crew, and 
invited him to be gone. He had headed for the Carolines but put 
in at the Pelews under stress of weather. Some time afterward, 
Donelson heard that the lorcha had been sighted off New Guinea. 
John had given Donelson a token that he said Edwin Booth would 
recognize. The St. Louis reporter, who saw this token, described 
it as a gold medal presented to the elder Booth "by the citizens 
of New York." 

There are many strange things in this narrative. Why did the 
audience shout "Booth"? Why did Frederick Ward bid him be- 
gone? Who were the four men that shared the fortunes of Booth 
—but did not know who he was? 

Booth would not have been welcomed by John H. Surratt; as 
late as 1898 Surratt said, "Ah! Wilkes Booth. I loathe him." Out 
in China, Frederick Townsend Ward died in battle on September 
21st, 1862— thirty months before Lincoln's assassination; so Donel- 
son's Booth could not have served in Ward's army nor been or- 
dered by Ward to quit Shanghai. 

In the 'eighties another Booth was found in Richmond, Vir- 
ginia. There, some twenty years previously, young J. Wilkes had 
made friends and met encouragement as an actor. In Richmond 
from 1878 to 1884 lived an Episcopal clergyman, James G. Arm- 
strong. His hair was flowing and dark— "black as a raven's wing." 
His pulpit style was highly dramatic. He liked the theater and 
took an interest in the amateur theatricals organized by young 
people of his church. Slightly lame, he walked with a cane. 
Though clean-shaven, he somewhat resembled John Booth in 
face and figure. He seemed mildly aware of the resemblance, and 
evidently did not object to having it noticed and mentioned. Ro- 


mantic Southern ladies must have asked one another in subdued 
voices: "What do you really think?" 

Armstrong went from Richmond to Atlanta in 1884. In 1888 he 
quit the ministry to become a lecturer. His favorite lectures were 
said to be on Hamlet and Richard III. He lived until 1891. A 
dozen years after his death the New York Herald investigated his 
early history. 7 

There was no mystery about his career. He had prepared for the 
ministry of the United Presbyterian Church at Xenia (Ohio) 
Theological Seminary. From 1859 to 1863 he preached at Sidney 
(Shelby County), Ohio. Then he joined the Protestant Episcopal 
Church, was ordained in that body, and was rector successively at 
Palmyra, Missouri (1871); at Hannibal, Sam Clemens' home 
town (1871-1874); and at Wheeling, West Virginia (1874-1878). 
From Wheeling he went to Richmond. 

Records 8 show that Armstrong, born at Ballymena, Ireland, July 
24th, 1828, was ten years older than Booth; that he was a graduate 
of Queen's College, Belfast; and that he did not come to America 
until 1856. The Herald considered that Armstrong had been "af- 
fecting a pose in permitting the rumors about him to be circu- 

In spite of the evidence to the contrary, there are many stories 
that Armstrong was Booth. During an engagement of Edwin 
Booth at Atlanta, Armstrong was in a stage box. When these two 
"looked into each other's eyes across the footlights," many in the 
audience "felt the play pause." At one o'clock of the next morning 
(this story adds) Edwin Booth was driven "in a close carriage" to 
visit Armstrong. Defendant in an ecclesiastical trial (ran another 
anecdote), Armstrong was asked, "Are you John Wilkes Booth?" 
and replied, "I am on trial as James Armstrong, not as John 
Wilkes Booth." But (declared a third account) Armstrong after he 
had left the ministry, admonished his wife: "Never forget that you 
have Wilkes Booth for husband, and Lincoln's blood is still on 
his hands." 9 

'Apr. 26, 1903; literary section, pp. 1-2. 

"Supplied by the Rev. W. G. Moorehead, president of Xenia College, who knew 
Armstrong personally. 

"While at Sidney he was married to Miss Alma Hitchcock. She survived him 
and was living in Atlanta in 1903. 


One day a stranger in Atlanta was standing at the main entrance 
to the Kimball House when Armstrong passed by. The stranger 
raised aloft both hands and cried, "John Wilkes Booth, as I live!" 
When bystanders told him the man he had seen was the Rev. 
J. G. Armstrong, the venerable stranger said, "That may be the 
name he goes by here, but his real name is John Wilkes Booth." 

There was a story that Armstrong wore his hair long to hide a 
tell-tale scar on the back of his neck. This, of course, was the 
"mark of the scalpel"— the scar "like the cicatrix of a burn"— that 
John Booth, when he fled in 1865, was known to have carried. 
One woman alleged that Armstrong's daughter— who, though she 
had "dark brown hair and big blue gray eyes," was said to look 
like the Booths— never wore a low-necked gown "except with a 
band of dark plush or something around her throat." This was, of 
course, to hide a strawberry mark like her father's scar! 

Out of the hills of Morgan county, Tennessee, from the little 
town of Wartburg, abode mainly of Germans devoted to culture 
of the grape, issued in 1885 the story of another Booth. 10 In 1866 
a stranger had arrived by stage at Wartburg and put up at the 
town's one hotel. At first he remained aloof, with door locked and 
shutters closed. After a time, under the name Sinclair, he mingled 
with the village-folk, but he was still a mystery. 

Whenever general talk turned to the "late unpleasantness," he 
would abruptly depart. Once he searched eagerly and long for a 
paper he had accidentally dropped. This was found by somebody 
else and contained an account of the murder of Lincoln. When 
Sinclair retrieved it, he fell ill. In delirium he cried out the names 
Atzerodt, Herold, Paine, Mudd, and Spangler, and let slip that 
his own name was rightly Booth. On recovery he would admit 

During the first week of March 1885, a visitor from Fredericks- 
burg, Virginia, was in Wartburg. When first he laid eyes on Sin- 
clair, he cried out: "Can that be Erastus Booth, Wilkes Booth's 
brother? The last time I saw him was in Washington, just after 
Lincoln was assassinated." Next day Sinclair was greeted by some 

10 New York Tribune, Mar. 13; p. 1. 


hardy individual with, "Hello, Booth!" He paused, recovered him- 
self, passed on. But that night he disappeared from Wartburg and 
its vine-clad slopes. 

Though Sinclair was under small-town inspection for nineteen 
years, personal details regarding him are woefully lacking. There 
was no Booth brother named Erastus. The Booth brother in Wash- 
ington "just after Lincoln was assassinated" was Junius Brutus 
Booth II, who was imprisoned there. Perhaps the "creator" of the 
story confused Brutus and Erastus! 

In 1898, the newspapers were printing vague stories of a wan- 
derer in Brazil who was thought by many to be John Booth. Mrs. 
J. M. Christ of Beloit, Wisconsin, told a representative of the 
Beloit Daily News: "John Wilkes Booth is not living in Brazil 
under an assumed name. He is dead. But he was not shot. He died 
a natural death years ago in England. Men are often afraid that 
women can't keep a secret, but I have kept that one for long, long 
years." Her story was that at the outbreak of the Civil War her 
first husband, Thomas Haggett, was skipper of the Mary Porter, a 
schooner of 800 tons burden. When their house in New Orleans 
was sacked by Union troops, she made her home aboard the Mary 
Porter. Three times the schooner ran the blockade at Wilmington 
with contraband. 

In June 1865, a little over two months after Lincoln's murder, 
the Mary Porter was at Havana, loading sugar for Nassau. There 
two men came aboard— evidently persons of distinction, for Cap- 
tain Haggett told his wife she must let them have her stateroom. 
On the third day out, he "very impressively" informed her that 
the passengers were "Ralph Semmes, of Alabama fame"— and John 
Wilkes Booth. 

It was strange that she had not recognized John Booth, for she 
said that in New York she had known him well, also Edwin and 
Junius Brutus the elder. But she explained that he was "haggard 
and emaciated, suffering under a mental strain as well as from the 
broken leg that had had little treatment and no rest." And of 
course she believed that he was dead. "He still limped," she said, 
"and I suppose he limped until the day he died." Captain Hag- 


gett told her that Booth, after having his leg set, went overland 
to the coast of Florida, got to Key West, and from there made 
Havana in a little sailboat. 

Though John behaved in "a peculiar, moody manner" and 
"seemed to be remorseful," Mrs. Christ, who said she had known 
many actors, did not think him any queerer than the others. She 
made no difficulty about being hostess to him— she was herself "in 
a measure embittered" against the North. 

Displaying "a large diamond in a gold setting" engraved with 
Booth's initials, she declared proudly, "That is a little piece of 
property that I wouldn't take a great deal for." Booth, she said, 
had given it to her when he left the Mary Porter in Nassau harbor 
—"in recognition ... of the inconveniences I had subjected myself 
to for his comfort." He stayed at the Victoria Hotel, and during 
the next two weeks she saw him a number of times. Semmes and 
he were waiting for the steamer Wild Pigeon, loading for Eng- 
land. Of his death there, some years afterward, she heard "through 
his family." 

Mrs. Christ had her own substitute victim. "John Wilkes Booth 
disappeared from history," she said, "at Dr. Mudd's residence. 
The man who was shot in the barn was undoubtedly Booth's ac- 
complice, Fox. By a strange coincidence he also limped, as from 
a broken leg, and had a scar upon his neck, as Booth had. . . . To 
believe that Booth died in that burning barn, I should have to 
reject the evidence of my senses, and I am not ready to do that." 

But there is strong evidence against her story. For one thing, in 
June 1865 Raphael Semmes of the Alabama had given his parole 
and was living at his home in Mobile, 802 Government Street, 
which he had just reached in May, after an arduous trip from 
Richmond. There he remained until his arrest in the following 
December. 11 Secondly, John Booth did not disappear at Dr. Sam- 
uel Mudd's. Thirdly, no conspirator or accomplice named Fox is 
on the record. 

Mrs. Christ's anecdotes of the Booths were sketchy and inac- 
curate. She and her husband were "at the theater which burned 
during a play by the Booths." She thought the play was "Hamlet." 

"Semmes, "Memoirs of Service Afloat"; p. 823. W. A. Roberts, "Semmes of the 
Alabama"; pp. 243-245. 


John "came before the curtain and announced that for reasons he 
could not then explain, the play would have to be suspended." 
He requested the audience to leave, promising that the box-office 
would refund all money. "At that moment the stage was burning, 
and it was only Booth's self-possession that averted a panic." But 
in fact the three Booths— Edwin, John, and Junius Brutus II— 
appeared together only once, at the Winter Garden, New York, 
on November 25th, 1864, in "Julius Caesar." It was Edwin who 
came before the curtain. The fire was in the Lafarge House, next 
door. The audience was soon quieted, and the play continued. 
Had Mrs. Christ known John, she would hardly have confused 
him with Edwin, or got so many details wrong. 

The very next day after Mrs. Christ's story appeared in the 
Beloit News, a fellow townsman of hers told his story of Booth's 
escape. 12 Wilson D. Kenzie said that as a member of company F, 
First U. S. Artillery, he had been stationed at New Orleans dur- 
ing the winter of 1862-1863. There he became "thoroughly ac- 
quainted" with John Booth, who was passing the winter in that 
city and who frequently visited the army quarters. In Kenzie's 
company was a private named Zisjen, who knew of Kenzie's ac- 
quaintance with Booth. 

In April 1865 the company was at Arlington Heights, just across 
the river from Washington. "Zisjen's term in the regular army 
having expired, he re-enlisted in the volunteers, in a company 
commanded by Boston Corbett. They were stationed within a 
stone's throw of us." Kenzie was at the play in Ford's on that night 
of April 14th. When a great shout went up that Lincoln had been 
srfot, he ran to get his horse and dashed for the Heights. He noti- 
fied his commanding officer, Lieutenant Norris, and the company 
was quickly in the saddle, ready for duty. 

"We received no orders, however, until next morning, when we 
were commanded to reconnoitre around the outskirts. We finally 
brought up at the barn around which so much interest has cen- 
tered, and there saw Corbett's command. Zisjen ran toward me, 
exclaiming, 'Kenzie, Corbett has killed a man who he says is 
Booth. Come and see.' " Kenzie dismounted and looked down at 

"Beloit Daily News, Apr. 20, 1898; p. 3. 


the man's face. "I had never seen the man before. It was not Booth 
nor did it resemble him and I said so. Corbett overheard my re- 
mark and was much displeased. Lieut. Norris told me to keep 
still. In fact, I received very distinct orders to thereafter keep my 
mouth shut." 

The man in the barn, Kenzie said, had already surrendered 
when Corbett shot him. Zisjen called Corbett "coward" and "cur" 
—which "would have been serious for Zisjen had he been in the 
regular army." Kenzie said: "The government never paid a dollar 
of the big reward it offered for Booth's capture." 

Wasn't it hard to doubt Kenzie? There, on the wall in the room 
of the interview, hung his sword; and he had (so he said) been 
on guard over Lincoln's body as it lay in state in the White House. 
But what were the facts? 

Joseph Zisgen (not Zisjen) was present at the capture of Herold 
and Booth— one of seventeen privates of the Sixteenth New York 
Cavalry who were. The detachment also included seven cor- 
porals and two sergeants— one of them Boston Corbett. The officer 
in immediate command of the detachment was Lieut. Edward P. 
Doherty. No other military unit whatever had part in the capture 
or was at Garrett's that day. These men, all of whose names are of 
record, were ordered out not on April 15th, the day after the mur- 
der, but on April 24th. It is impossible that Kenzie could have 
been at Garrett's. Perhaps he did not even know where the barn 
was; or he would not have spoken as if it were on the "outskirts" 
of Washington. Lastly, John Booth did not spend the winter of 
1862-1863 in New Orleans, and probably Kenzie did not know him 
at all. 

Kenzie was wrong about the reward, too. It was fully paid, and 
Joseph Zisgen got $1,653.85 as his share. There is no evidence, 
except Kenzie's word, that "the man in the barn" had surrendered 
before he was shot; but evidence that he had not is abundant. 

By 1929 the wanderer had turned up in no less than twenty 
different guises, according to a count said to have been carefully 
kept by Herbert W. Fay, custodian of the Lincoln tomb at Spring- 
field. Of these the most conspicuous was John St. Helen— thanks 


to "Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth," a book by Finis L. 
Bates, an attorney of Memphis, Tennessee. 13 
Of Bates' book the New York Herald said: 

If the style be the man, then one must premise that Mr. Bates' intel- 
ligence, attainments and taste, as revealed through this medium, are 
not such as would win his case with an impartial jury. The style is at 
once slipshod and gaudy. On the one hand, the author falls into such 
malapropisms as to speak of his hero's 'inimical manner'; on the other 
he soars into the empyrean on the wings of such bathos as this: — 

"Then, just as twilight was being clasped into the folds of night by 
the stars of a cloudless sky, I sought seclusion while the world paused, 
lapped in the universal laws of rest, and entered dreamland on that 
bark of sleep, the sister ship of death, pillowed within the rainbow of 
hope, a fancy fed by the air castles of youth." 

Stuff of this sort prejudices one at the start. The story Mr. Bates has 
to tell is one that awakens a distrust more logical than mere preju- 
dice. . . . 

Read Bates' "Escape," and you will agree that the Herald was 
putting it mildly. The book is often crude to the verge of illiteracy. 
It is marked throughout by wild implausibilities, by ignorance, 
misstatement, suppression, evasion, and plain disingenuousness. 
Yet about 75,000 copies are thought to have been sold; mainly 
in the South and Southwest. Editors chose to regard it as "timely." 
It entered the proceedings of historical societies. It gave new life 
to the legend that Booth had survived and escaped. 

Harper's Magazine at last commissioned William G. Shepherd, 
a feature writer, "to probe the evidence to a conclusive issue." 
The account of Shepherd's "remarkable adventure in journalism" 
was published in Harper's for November 1924. "Through several 
long drowsy summer afternoons" in Memphis, Bates, "a sturdy 
white-haired Southern lawyer," talked to Shepherd, "in soft 
Southern dialect," and Shepherd "listened enthralled." 14 Shep- 

"The editio princeps (Memphis, 1907) was shortly followed by others (some of 
them issued from Parkersburg, West Virginia), with an expanded title and sev- 
eral additional illustrations, including a frontispiece of the author. 

"According to Shepherd (p. 705), Bates had been "a state's attorney general." 
Similar assertions have been made elsewhere — e.g., in the Herald Tribune (New 
York), Dec. 17, 1931; p. 13. From the office of the attorney-general of the State 
of Tennessee, a query brought this reply: "We have had no Attorney General of 
the State of Tennessee by the name of Finis L. Bates. If this man was ever At- 
torney General in this State he possibly held the office of District Attorney General." 


herd "could not doubt this man's sincerity" and accepted at face 
value Bates' description of "the years of time and thousands of 
dollars" expended " 'for the correction of history, sir.' " He 
thought that John St. Helen's yarn (as relayed by Bates) "fitted so 
plausibly into the true and inner account of the movements and 
experiences of the assassin of Abraham Lincoln." Shepherd was a 
good reporter— but scarcely an expert in that particular field. Yet 
even the better-informed and more skeptical Lloyd Lewis con- 
sidered that Bates, being a lawyer, "marshaled his evidence 
cleverly"; and that he was probably sincere. Bates lived until 
Thanksgiving Day of 1923 and devoted much of his time to col- 
lecting further "evidence." 


Remember, as we go over the main details of Bates' story, that 
there are two versions of it: one in his book, "Escape"; and the 
other in Shepherd's report, as printed in Harper's Magazine for 
November 1924. 

About forty miles southwest of Fort Worth, Texas, is Granbury, 
county seat of Hood County. In the spring of 1872 Bates was prac- 
ticing law there, and there he first met John St. Helen. One of 
Bates' earliest clients had been indicted for running a saloon with- 
out a license in the neighboring hamlet of Glen Rose. 15 The real 
culprit was St. Helen. He admitted his guilt, but refused to attend 
court in behalf of the defendant. He promised Bates: "I shall see 

you, and of my purpose and destiny speak— until then " 

"Then" he retained Bates as counsel. 16 "I say to you, as my at- 
torney, that my name is not John St. Helen, as you know me and 
suppose me to be, and for this reason I cannot afford to go to Tyler 
before the Federal Court, in fear that my true identity be discov- 
ered, as the Federal Courts are more or less presided over in the 
South and officered by persons heretofore, as well as now, con- 
nected with the Federal Army and government, and the risk would 
be too great for me to take." 

15 Glen Rose was in Hood County until 1875, when Somervell County was or- 
ganized from Hood, with Glen Rose as county seat. (E well's "History." Letter of 
W. E. Porter, Granbury.) 

""Escape," p. 13. 


In October 1872 St. Helen removed his liquor business to 
Granbury; but (says Bates) he always "appeared to have more 
money than was warranted by his stock in trade" and he employed 
his ample leisure in reciting Shakespeare's plays— with special pref- 
erence for "Richard III." Bates on one page notes of St. Helen 
that "the flashes which came from his keen, penetrating black eyes 
spoke of desperation and a capacity for crime"; on another he 
refers to the man's "consummate ease of manner and reassur- 
ing appearance." He alludes to St. Helen's "full, clear voice" 
and "complete knowledge of elocution"— to the recitations that 
"charmed the ear and pleased all listeners"; but he also says that 
on occasion St. Helen's "breath came hard, almost to a wheeze" 
in what seemed to be "a bronchial or an asthmatic affliction of the 
throat and chest." He says (in the book) that he never knew of 
St. Helen's "taking strong drink of any character," but he told 
Shepherd that St. Helen "drank heavily." 

St. Helen was (according to Bates) a handsome fellow— a man 
who "entertained you to mirth or to tears"; thrilling the evening 
assemblies of Granbury with his rendition of "Locksley Hall," or 
"standing in graceful poise" at his own bar, "holding his left 
hand well extended" and declaiming: 

"Come not when I am dead 
To shed thy tears around my head. 
Let the wind sweep and the plover cry, 
But thou, O fool man, go by." 17 

He showed "intimacy with every detail of theatrical work." 
Periodicals of the theater lay about his room behind the saloon. 
The comedian Roland Reed, then in his twenties, played a brief 
engagement at Granbury. Bates and St. Helen attended all the 
performances, and St. Helen invited Bates and Reed to accompany 
him on a morning walk to view the Brazos River in flood. During 
the walk St. Helen launched into a monologue on "the highest 
class of acting," and likened one of Reed's portrayals to "a simple- 
ton attempting to impersonate the character and eccentricities of 
an idiot." 

Reading, reciting, sitting in at "amusing games of cards," St. 

17 A sad corruption of Tennyson. 


Helen— according to Bates— was a "social favorite," but kept at 
arm's length all except "a select few"; yet "in such a gentle and 
respectful way that no affront was taken." Bates told Shepherd: 
"He turned me to Shakespeare and to Roman history. He gave me 
innumerable lessons in oratory. He taught me what to do with 
my hands and feet before an audience. He taught me gestures and 
voice inflection. His imitations of public speakers who made 
errors in platform manners were excruciatingly funny." 18 

One night in 1877 Bates was hurriedly called to St. Helen's 
bedside. In his book he says that St. Helen had for some time been 
gravely ill; but he told Shepherd that St. Helen's drinking bouts 
were often followed by "spells." As Shepherd reports Bates, when 
the doctor left the room, St. Helen said to Bates: 

"I don't believe I shall live. Reach under my pillow and take 
out a picture you'll find there." Bates found under the pillow a 
tintype— of St. Helen himself. 

"If I don't live," St. Helen continued, "I want you, as my law- 
yer, to send that picture to Edwin Booth, in New York City, and 
tell him the man in that picture is dead. Tell him how I died." 

So Bates promised. Then he and "the Mexican boy" massaged 
St. Helen with brandy. By morning the patient was better. 19 

The account in Bates' book is more explicit. There St. Helen 

"I am dying. My name is John Wilkes Booth, and I am the 
assassin of President Lincoln. Get the picture of myself from under 
the pillow. I leave it with you for my future identification. Notify 
my brother Edwin Booth, of New York City." 

When, after "many weeks," he recovered, he asked Bates, "Do 
you remember anything I said when I was sick?" "Many things," 
answered Bates; and St. Helen rejoined. "Then you have my life 
in your keeping, but, thank God, as my attorney." Later, as the 
two men sauntered along a country road (so Bates told Shepherd), 
St. Helen burst out: 

"I am John Wilkes Booth. I am the man who killed the best 
man that ever lived, Abraham Lincoln." 

Then he told his story. In the book it is drawn out to much 

18 Harper's Magazine, Nov. 1924; p. 707. 

19 lb.; pp. 707-708. 


greater length than in Shepherd's report. There are discrepancies, 
but in both versions Bates is scandalized, incredulous, doubtful 
whether his odd client is wholly responsible. "And," he writes, "in 
our after association, lasting about ten months, we made no fur- 
ther reference to the subject, which was avoided by mutual con- 
sent." For a time (he asserted) he thought the tintype was a 
portrait of "some one of the Herolds"— this in spite of his own 
story that St. Helen claimed to be Booth and had said this very 
tintype was a "picture of myself." 

When Bates had settled in Memphis, he began (he said) to read 
whatever he could find about Lincoln's murder. The more he 
read, the more convinced he grew that John St. Helen was Wilkes 

He traced St. Helen to Leadville, Colorado, thence to Fresno; 
and was "reasonably sure" that he "still lived and could be lo- 
cated." On January 17th, 1898, he wrote to Secretary of War 
Alger, telling him that he was "in possession of such facts as are 
conclusive that John Wilkes Booth now lives"; and asking whether 
the "development" of this news would be "a matter of any im- 
portance" to the War Department. Bates' letter was shortly re- 
turned to him with the endorsement by G. Norman Lieber, Judge 
Advocate General: "It is recommended that he be informed that 
the matter is of no importance to the War Department." 20 Bates 
was not satisfied with the answer. Might not the officials of the 
War Department be held guilty of "assisting, by concealment, the 
escape of John Wilkes Booth," and thus of being accessories after 
the fact? 

In April 1900 a letter from Bates to Secretary John Hay brought 
this reply: 

The Secretary of State requested me to acknowledge receipt of your 
favor of the 24th of April and to thank you for it. 

Very respectfully, 
E. J. Babcock, 
Private Secretary. 

20 The original is pictured in Harper's Magazine, Nov. 1924; p. 705. 


"This," comments Bates, "closed my efforts at presenting the mat- 
ter of Booth's discovery to the government of the United States." 
He determined to "appeal to the American people." 

On the 13th of January 1903 the News and the Wave, news- 
papers of Enid, Oklahoma (then a town of some 3,500 people), 
announced the death that day by suicide of David E. George, a 
rather recent arrival from El Reno, sixty-five or seventy miles 
south. Most of his time in Enid he had spent in Jack Bernstein's 
saloon or hanging about the drab second-floor office of the Grand 
Avenue Hotel, where he roomed. The body was taken to W. B. 
Penniman's undertaking parlors, at the rear of his furniture shop. 
Thence it might soon have gone unclaimed to a forlorn grave; 
but while W. H. Ryan, Penniman's assistant, was "fixing it up," 
in walked a Methodist clergyman, the Rev. E. C. Harper. Harper 
took one look and cried out: 

"Do you know who that is?" 

"Why," said Ryan calmly, "his name is George." 

"No, sir, it isn't," responded the Rev. Mr. Harper firmly. "That 
is the body of John Wilkes Booth, the man who killed Abraham 
Lincoln." 21 

Thereupon the Rev. Mr. Harper told how George had "con- 
fessed" to Mrs. Harper at El Reno in April 1900. "Of course I 
took special pains with the body after that," said Ryan. "I did the 
best job of embalming I've ever done. If it was Booth's body, I 
wanted to preserve it for the Washington officials when they 

The news spread through the press of the West and South. Finis 
L. Bates of Memphis read the story— presumably in the Memphis 
Commercial- Appeal for Sunday, January 18th, 1903, under the 
heading "Wilkes Booth a Suicide." He must have been puzzled. 
What if this Booth was not his Booth? 

He telegraphed to Penniman, asking whether he might see the 
body. But he did not reach Enid until six p.m. of the 23rd. 
His coming, he says, had been "awaited with great anxiety by a 
large and much-excited throng of people"; and "old Federal sol- 

21 From Shepherd's interview with Ryan, Harper's Magazine, Nov. 1924; pp. 716- 


diers" were darkly believed to be ready to "take the body into the 
streets and burn it, if it should be identified as that of John Wilkes 
Booth." (Penniman said flatly of Bates, "His book account of all 
this is bunk.") 

Bates went to Penniman's on the 24th, looked upon the body— 
and wept. "I knew him," he writes characteristically, "as instantly 
as men discern night from day, as the starlight from moonlight, or 
the moon from the light of day." Bates carried the tintype that 
John St. Helen had given him. He produced it, calling upon 
Penniman and Ryan "to bear witness with me to the identity of 
this dead man with the picture." 22 

Penniman took out letters of administration on George's "es- 
tate," which included the body. Bates by identifying the two 
claimants as one and the same, had quieted his own doubts. Items 
from Enid were welcomed by journals of Kansas City and St. 
Louis. The New York Tribune for June 3rd, 1903, reported: 

St. Louis, June 2. — A dispatch to "The Globe-Democrat" from Enid, 
Okla., says that Junius Brutus Booth, the actor and nephew of John 
Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln, has fully identified 
the remains of the man known as David E. George as his uncle. 

The dispatch dated George's suicide on January 14th (instead 
of the correct date, January 73 th), and said that he left a letter 
directed to Bates— for which there is no other evidence. "Mr. Bates 
came here at once, and fully identified the body as that of John 
Wilkes Booth"; and he had later obtained positive identifications 
"from the dead man's nephew, and from Joseph Jefferson, Miss 
Clara Morris and a score of others who knew him in his early 
days." "According to Mr. Bates' story," the dispatch added, "he 
had acted as Booth's confidential agent and attorney for nearly 
forty years." Many, as they read, were convinced that St. Helen- 
George was indeed John Booth; and with the introductory for- 
mula "I see by the paper," they spread the word abroad. 

The officials from Washington, whom Ryan had expected, never 
came. The embalmed corpse of the suicide was unburied. It con- 
tinued on display in Penniman's rear room. Visiting strangers 
were taken to gaze at it. Somebody would say, "We'd like to see 

22 "Escape"; pp. 254, 261-262, 274-275. Already, he recounts, "more than fifty 
thousand men, women, and children" had viewed the exhibitl 


Booth's body, please." Penniman or an assistant would reply, 
"Certainly. Go right on back." "That back room," mused Ryan, 
"was a queer place. Almost every day some visitor would find 
something new, and some new story would go out." 

None of those that viewed the body claimed it. Penniman, in 
after years at his home in Columbus, Ohio, said that the most 
unlikely subjects had invariably been claimed and buried. All 
but George. 

After some years, the body was turned over to Finis Bates; pre- 
sumably with the understanding that he would give it decent 
burial. Instead of that, Bates stored his dear old friend in the Bates 
garage at Memphis. And when Bates could, he rented him and 
leased him and let him out for hire. Small fairs and cheap side- 
shows proclaimed him— with acknowledgments to Bates. Every 
now and then Bates tried to sell him. In 1920 he offered him to 
Henry Ford for $1,000— with affidavits and "a wealth of circum- 
stantial detail." 


Bates did not make notes of St. Helen's "confession" at the time, 
but thirty-five years afterward he published it verbatim. The story 
that Bates put into St. Helen's mouth must have been Bates' own 
synthesis. He found some material for it in 1897 m a reporter's 
interview with David Dana, in the Boston Sunday Globe of De- 
cember 12th, 1897. This feature article "He Almost Saved Lin- 
coln" yielded many particulars that Bates later wove into his book. 

In 1897 David Dana, then seventy-one, was living on his farm 
in West Lubec, Maine. He had taken a minor part in the chase 
after Booth into Lower Maryland. At the Trial of the Conspira- 
tors he testified that he arrived in Bryantown about one p.m., 
Saturday, April 15th, 1865; apprised the villagers of Lincoln's 
murder; told them he knew the murderer was Booth, "as near 
as a person could know anything." Dr. George D. Mudd (a sec- 
ond cousin of the alleged conspirator Dr. Samuel A. Mudd) testi- 
fied that on April 15th Dana, in response to his inquiry, informed 
him that the President's murderer, "supposed to be a man by the 
name of Booth," was probably hidden in Washington. 23 

23 Poore, vol. ii, pp. 67-68. N. A. Mudd, "The Life of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd"; p. 
90 On Monday morning (Apr. 17) Dr. George Mudd told Dana that on Saturday, 

From a portrait in the Nczv York 



As he looked in the Bates tintype, 

from which the portrait at the 

right was made 

AGED 38" 

The manufactured portrait in 
Bates' book 


In 1897 Dana represented that he had been adjutant-general on 
the staff of Gen. C. C. Augur, commanding the Department of 
Washington; that Augur gave him full discretionary powers; and 
that he had "laid out the plan for the capture of Booth." But the 
official records show that in April 1865 he was first lieutenant 
and provost marshal in the third brigade of the 22nd army corps, 
and reported to Captain Chandler, assistant adjutant-general. His 
story in the Globe is full of statements that do not agree with the 
known facts or are thoroughly improbable. 24 But it was a windfall 
for Bates, because Dana had really borne some part, even if but a 
small one, in those events. 

Dana said that just before the murder he "learned that a plot 
was forming" and that "the blow would undoubtedly be aimed 
against the life of Pres. Lincoln." Forthwith he asked for (and 
received) "a battalion of veteran cavalry" and obtained orders for 
a stricter guard at all approaches in his territory. On Friday, 
April 14th, 1865, about one p.m., "two men appeared before the 
guard on the road leading into Washington from the east." Upon 
their refusal to state their names or their business, they were ar- 
rested and held for transfer to headquarters. In an hour or so 
they gave the names of Herold and Booth. Then an order came 
from General Augur "to release all prisoners held by the guards, 
and to withdraw the guard until further orders." The two men 
were thereupon released and at once rode on into Washington 
City. After the murder, Augur, "with streaming eyes," exclaimed 
to Dana, "My God, Marshal, if I had listened to your advice this 
terrible thing never would have happened!" 

Here is suggestion of evil contrivance by those in high places. 
Here is the hint of an abrupt change in military instructions that 
permitted the assassin to escape. Small wonder that Bates fastened 
upon Dana's reminiscences. From them he created his narrative 
of John St. Helen. 

Bates says that St. Helen told him that on the morning of April 

Apr. 15, two suspicious persons had been at Samuel Mudd's house. This he did 
with Samuel Mudd's approval. It does not appear that Dana followed up the clue. 
24 In a letter to Bates (Dec. 25, 1897), Dana claimed also that Atzerodt "was 
captured by my troops." (See the Dearborn Independent, Apr. 18, 1925; p. 14.) But 
Atzerodt was arrested by Sergeant Gemmill, under orders from Captain Townsend; 
and the arrest was made at Germantown, Md., northwest of Washington City, miles 
from the region at the southeast to which Dana had been sent. 


14th, 1865, he and Herold were riding back to Washington City. 
They had been almost to Richmond, scanning the route by which 
Lincoln was to be abducted. At the Navy Yard bridge they were 
stopped; and having refused to give their names, were detained 
"until in the afternoon about 2 o'clock." Having given a satisfac- 
tory account of themselves, they were allowed to proceed. 

They "went straight to the Kirkwood Hotel." There Vice- 
President Johnson lived, and there had been "the place of rendez- 
vous of the conspirators." Upon arriving at the Kirkwood about 
three o'clock, St. Helen discussed with Johnson the changed pos- 
ture of affairs, especially Lee's surrender, of which St. Helen had 
learned only that afternoon. The end of the war seemed near. 
The plan to take Lincoln to Richmond was impossible, now that 
the Confederate government had abandoned the city. Johnson 
(said St. Helen) "with pale face, fixed eyes, and quivering lips," 

"Are you too faint-hearted to kill him?" 

Thus it was Johnson who first gave St. Helen (according to 
Bates) the notion of murder. St. Helen insisted that escape from 
the city would be impossible. Johnson promised that it would be 
certain. He likewise promised that General Grant and Mrs. Grant 
would not be present at Ford's Theatre, and that such persons as 
"would not interfere with me [St. Helen] in my purpose" would 
occupy the box with the President and Mrs. Lincoln. General 
Augur, he said, would call in the guards from the Navy Yard 
bridge; but if the guards had not yet left, the password was "T.B." 
or "T. B. Road." 25 Once he was President, Johnson would grant 
St. Helen "absolute pardon, if need be." 

In a letter written to Dana in 1897, F. A. Demond of Cavendish, 
Vermont, "a member of your [Dana's] old provost guard," said 
that he was stationed at the Uniontown end of the Navy Yard 
bridge when Booth rode across from Washington City; and that 
he heard Booth give the guard on post "some kind of answer about 
going to see some one who lived out on the T. B. road." Bates 
apparently developed this hazy reference into the assertion that 
Booth and Herold "were permitted to pass the guards without 

25 "Escape"; pp. 41-44. — "East Potomac bridge," "East Potomac river bridge," 
are among Bates' names for the Navy Yard bridge over the East Branch. 


arrest by simply giving the pass word 'T.B.' or 'T. B. Road'." And 
T. B., says Bates, "was meaningless, unless understood by the guard 
on duty." 26 Actually, T. B. was a crossroads settlement below 
Surrattsville. Its name was said to have been derived from initials 
found cut on a stone boundary-mark in the vicinity. 

Many details in St. Helen's narrative as given by Bates do not 
fit the facts. He had fractured his "right shin bone"— "about six 
or eight inches above the ankle"; and he exhibited to Bates a right 
shin with a "niched or uneven surface." It had been fractured 
"against the edge of the stage." He said that Dr. Mudd made 
splints with "pieces of cigar boxes." He said that Herold held the 
horse at the rear door of Ford's; that he and Herold crossed the 
Potomac on the night of April 21st; that the Garrett house was 
three miles or more from the highway to Bowling Green; that he 
reached Garrett's on April 22nd. 27 Could the real Booth possibly 
have told the story so? 

It was Samuel Cox's overseer, St. Helen said, who got them 
across the Potomac. The overseer, Ruddy, had previously ar- 
ranged the meeting with the young Confederates, Jett, Ruggles, 
and Bainbridge; and he accompanied the fugitives over the Rap- 
pahannock to Port Royal, where these three were waiting. St. 
Helen then discovered that he had lost his diary, some letters, and 
a "picture of my sister." He asked Ruddy to turn back and look 
for these. It was settled that Ruggles and Bainbridge would escort 
St. Helen to Garrett's; and that Herold and Ruddy would meet 
him there next day. 

But next day (April 23rd, in the Bates chronology) the Yankee 
cavalry "crossed the Rappahannock river in hot pursuit." Ruggles 
and Bainbridge supplied a horse for St. Helen; and from "a 
wooded ravine" near the Garrett house the three rode away west- 
ward. Early on the 24th St. Helen parted from his companions. 
He rode through West Virginia and Kentucky into Mississippi, 
and went on to the Indian Territory, where for about eighteen 
months he was "associated with the Apache tribe." 28 

Thence he drifted to Nebraska City, and there a contractor 

26 lb.; p. 111. 

27 lb.; pp. 47, 48, 50, 54. 

28 lb.; pp. 58, 129-131, 293. 


hired him to drive a four-mule team in a wagon train hauling pro- 
visions to Salt Lake City for the Federal government. En route he 
quietly disappeared and "proceeded to San Francisco, California, 
to meet my mother and my brother, Junius Brutus Booth." Then 
he went to Mexico and Texas. 29 Who was shot? Ruddy. 

This is the gist of the tale that Finis Bates ascribed to John St. 
Helen. We cannot be sure how much of it is Bates and how much 
St. Helen—but Bates seems to preponderate. Is there any fact? 
What is known of St. Helen? 


At Iredell, in Bosque County, Texas, John St. Helen was a 
school-teacher, taught in the Hester log schoolhouse, and always 
wore his hat in school hours. Indeed, tradition in Iredell was 
that St. Helen had never been seen bareheaded. He hailed from 
New Orleans, and it was said that the name he there passed under 
was Ney. From Iredell he went to Glen Rose, some twenty miles 
northeast, where he kept a saloon and where Finis Bates met 
him. In October 1872 he went to Granbury. 

Ewell's "History of Hood County" has this exciting episode: 30 

Wray (James Wray of Squaw Creek] was a brave and brawny man, 
but quiet and peaceably disposed; and it is related that during the 
turbulent times, two men at enmity with him, conspired to make way 
with him. One of these, St. Helen, by name, had a serious impediment 
in his speech, caused by asthma, so he could rarely speak above a whis- 
per. They agreed to get Wray into a house, extinguish the lights and 
St. Helen was to immediately knock Wray down and his confederate 
then to fall upon him and cut his throat; but when St. Helen made at 
his victim, the latter anticipating him, reversed the plan by felling St. 
Helen, who in the darkness was immediately fallen upon by his fellow 
conspirator with knife applied to his throat and would soon have been 
dispatched, but the exigency of the situation caused the unfortunate 
St. Helen, for the moment, to gain the use of his vocal cords and loudly 
announce his identity. 

38 Bates states that at Enid in 1903 — four years before his book was issued — he 
talked with one Treadkell [Thrailkell?], who told at length of a Jesse Smith whom 
he had once employed as a teamster. Treadkell was delivering supplies to United 
States troops at Salt Lake City. Jesse knew little about mules but around camp was 
the life of the party, fascinating all with his "grandly eloquent" recitations of 
poems and Shakespearean plays. The day before Salt Lake City was reached, he took 
French leave. 

30 Chapt. xxxvii, p. 91. 


In 1921 F. L. Black, acting for the Dearborn Independent, vis- 
ited Hood County and interviewed all persons he could find who 
had known St. Helen, or who had been there in St. Helen's day. 31 
Says Black: "Mr. Bates' descriptions of John St. Helen, when read 
to Granbury people who knew him, greatly amused them." Here 
are extracts from statements they made: 

I was in Granbury during the time St. Helen was here. ... St. Helen 
was a typical saloon desperado. He had a quick eye and sometimes his 
eyes were rather wild looking. (Frank Gaston, editor of the Granbury 

He never got dramatic unless warmed up with whisky. He was in- 
clined to quote poetry both when sober and drunk, but I never saw 
him read any book or have any in his possession. ... I do not remember 
that St. Helen and Finis Bates were ever intimately acquainted, and 
do not think it could have been possible, due to their difference in age 
and character. Bates was just a young green kid and St. Helen was a 
hardened man of the world of at least forty. (A. P. Gordon, in Hood 
County from 1871) 

St. Helen once started a fight in my place of business with a half- 
breed Indian by the name of Selvidge. St. Helen came in half-drunk 
and in a violent and vicious mood. Just how the fight started, I do not 
know, but the first thing I saw was Selvidge on the floor with "Saint" 
on top of him. Bill McDonald was in the saloon and ran up with a 
knife to aid St. Helen. I grabbed Bill and pushed him out through the 
front door. When I turned I saw St. Helen going out the back door and 
found Selvidge back of the counter with a bloody knife. He had cut 
St. Helen across the back of the neck, opening the muscles, which left 
a bad scar. (D. L. Nntt) 

While I remember him quoting poetry, I do not remember of him 
ever making fine speeches; this would have been impossible anyway on 
account of his throat. (George W. Wright) 

J. H. Doyle, merchant in Granbury in the 'seventies, and D. L. 
Nutt, who had been prominent in Hood County, both denied 
that St. Helen ever had much money. Ashley W. Crockett, for- 
merly of the Vidette, was sure that if St. Helen received periodi- 
cal remittances the fact must have become known. Ashley Crock- 
ett, grandson of Davy Crockett of the Alamo and well versed in the 
early-day history of Hood County, said in a letter responding to 
various queries of the present writer: 

^Dearborn Independent, Apr. 18, 1925; p. 10 Sworn statements by these per- 
sons were taken — The Vidette was Hood County's first newspaper. 


In the fall of 1872, a man came to this town under the name of John 
St. Helen and entered the saloon business, naming his saloon the 
"Black Hawk." ... St. Helen left Granbury in May 1873 for Colo- 
rado. . . . While a very young man in Granbury in 1872, I knew this 
man St. Helen but was not at all intimate with him, and have never 
believed that he was John Wilkes Booth. 32 

And what is actually known of David E. George before his 
suicide? He was a house painter— "an ordinary painter, not very 
good or very bad"— and worked at his trade when there was work 
to do. Out of work, he loafed around stores and police stations. 
When he left El Reno, he owed a local merchant $40 for paint. 
He spoke with a Southern drawl, gave signs of some education, but 
was "not particularly polished." A periodic drinker, he mumbled 
when in his cups. Sometimes he "recited." Occasionally he fell into 
morose spells and spoke little. Once, in El Reno, he got violent, 
brandished a six-shooter, and was arrested. He dyed his mustache 
and hair, and was neat about his clothing. 

At El Reno he bought a four room cottage for $700 and paid 
$350 by check. (Bates says that the purchase price was $3,500 and 
that George "lacked a small amount of having enough money to 
pay cash." 33 The correct figures are matters of record.) J. W. Sim- 
mons and his wife occupied the cottage, rent free; gave George 
board and lodging; and looked after him. Before long, Mrs. Sim- 
mons wearied of the lodger's drunken clamor; so she and her 
husband took the house and gave George a note for $350. 

In April 1900, while living with the Simmons family, he swal- 
lowed a heavy dose of a drug and proclaimed that he was about 
to die. To a lady whom he had known but a few weeks and who 
happened to be at the time a visitor in the house, he "confessed," 
just before lapsing into unconsciousness, that he had killed "one 
of the best men that ever lived, Abraham Lincoln." He asked her 
to bring pencil and paper, and wrote: "I am going to die before 
the sun goes down. J. Wilkes Booth." She became in May the wife 
of the Rev. E. C. Harper, who on January 14th, 1903, burst in 

32 Bates says ("Escape"; p. 83) it was "in the spring of 1878" that St. Helen 
departed for Leadville. He told F. L. Black that St. Helen was a founder of the 
Elks at Leadville, where his portrait adorned the lodge. Black established that the 
portrait was of an actor named Charles Vincent {Dearborn Independent f Apr. 18, 
1925; p. 14). 

^"Escape"; p. 289. 


upon Ryan in the Enid undertaking establishment with the words, 
"That is the body of John Wilkes Booth." 

David George was restored to life; and as he had drifted from 
Hennessey to El Reno, so now he drifted from El Reno to Enid. 34 
On the morning of January 13th, 1903, Lee Boyd, another roomer 
at Enid's Grand Avenue Hotel, heard groans in George's cubicle, 
the outer wall of which was a low partition. Stepping from a trunk 
in the hallway, Boyd clambered over and found that George had 
taken poison and was in convulsions. Within about five minutes 
Dr. R. M. Field arrived, but it was too late. Both Boyd and Dr. 
Field made sworn statements that there was no confession by 
George at this time. George was quite unable to speak. 35 

Bates' book reports Brown, the hotel clerk, as saying George 
was stricken after eleven on the night of the 13th, and when 
the doctor had left him (about four a.m. on the 14th) declared: 
"My name is not George. I am John Wilkes Booth." But George's 
death was reported in the evening papers of the 13th, and Under- 
taker Penniman said that death occurred about ten-thirty or 
eleven on the morning of that day! Bates falsified the date to make 
time for the deathbed confession. 36 

Were John St. Helen and David E. George one and the same? 

Both St. Helen and George were periodic "drunks": and when 
drunk, both were noisy. From Glen Rose the present writer had 
the word of an old lady in whose house St. Helen lodged a while 
that he "would jump up in the night and scream there was some 
one after him." At El Reno, Mrs. J. W. Simmons found David E. 
George much too vociferous. Drunk or sober, each was inclined 
to repeat scraps of poetry. Amateur elocutionists and vocalists were 

34 Bates says that George lived at Hennessey as a "gentleman of leisure" under 
the name of George D. Ryan ("Escape"; pp. 229, 238, 240). Perhaps that was an 
attempt to render him more mysterious. He lived in Hennessey as David E. George 
and worked at his trade of house-painting. (Dearborn Independent, Apr. 25, 1925; 
p. 10). 

35 This is here emphasized because for use in his book Bates altered the original 
affidavit made by Dumont (proprietor) and Brown (clerk) of the Grand Avenue 
Hotel, causing it to read that George took fifteen grains of strychnine or arsenic 
and "died from the effects of said poison at 6:30 o'clock a.m., on the 14th of Jan- 
uary, 1903." F. L. Black charged that subsequent to the writing of the original docu- 
ment these words were added: "George declaring on his death bed that he was 
John Wilks [sic] Booth." This does not, however, appear in the printed form. 

("Escape"; p. 272). 
38 "Escape"; pp. 266-271. 


common among barroom habitues— especially in frontier towns. 
Asked whether George recited Shakespeare, W. H. Ryan, the un- 
dertaker of Enid, laughed and answered: "It may have sounded 
like Shakespeare to the men in the saloons who heard it. But we 
didn't know much of Shakespeare in Oklahoma Territory in 
those days." 

By Bates' telling, St. Helen's "favorite occupation" was reading 
Shakespeare's plays, "or rather reciting them as he alone could 
do." Further, "his special preference seemed to be that of Richard 
III." And, says Bates, "he began his recitations, as I now remember 
him, by somewhat transposing the introductory of Richard III, 

" T would I could laugh with those who laugh and weep with 
those who weep, wet my eyes with artificial tears and frame my 
face to all occasions—' following with much of the recitation of 
Richard III." . . . 37 

Bates was no Shakespearean! In Gloster's soliloquy that opens 
"Richard III" there is nothing (in the original or the Cibber 
version) like this quotation. It seems to be mangled Scripture 
(Rom. xii, 15) combined with two lines from Gloster's long 
speech in the third part of "Henry VI" (act iii, sc. 2, 184-185). 
It is hard to imagine that Bates heard these words from John 

According to a statement by Mrs. Harper (then Mrs. Young) 
in January 1921, George, when he made his confession to her in 
April 1900, explained that "he had friends in Washington, who, 
after he escaped from the theatre in which he killed Lincoln, had 
hidden him in a trunk, and got him on a boat for Europe, where 
he had remained for ten years." Thus he would have been abroad 
at the very time when St. Helen was running the Black Hawk 
in Granbury. 

St. Helen was a gambler, always equipped with revolver and 
knife, and even in frontier Texas passed for a "bad man." George 
did own a shooting-iron (for the police of El Reno took it from 
him), but he was "harmless when sober." He was a roving house 
painter, innocent of bravado, and slow pay for his little advertise- 
ment in the El Reno Democrat. There is no reference to his hav- 

37 lb.; p. 22. 


ing the asthmatic wheeze or vocal impediment that troubled St. 
Helen. By Bates' statement, John St. Helen had "flashing black 
eyes"; 38 but Mrs. Harper said George's eyes were "deep blue." 
And Ryan, the undertaker (later Enid's mayor), affirmed: "A 
hundred times in that back room I went to the corpse and raised 
the lids and looked at those eyes, and they were dark blue." So 
bloated with poison was George's body that Bates' instant iden- 
tification could hardly have been bona fide; especially as it was 
more than a quarter-century since Bates had seen St. Helen. 39 

Bates was sure that regular remittances came to St. Helen and 
George from the Booth family, either directly or through an agent. 
But apparently neither ever had any money. 

St. Helen gained a little income from selling whisky and from 
petty gambling. George made two wills— one at El Reno, dated 
June 17th, 1902; the other at Enid on December 31st. By the 
second he bequeathed $5,500 from nonexistent life-insurance 
policies; seven hundred acres of land he never owned; cash he 
did not have. The land was said to be in the Chickasaw nation, 
but the first Chickasaw allotments to individuals were not made 
until April 1903— after the date of the will; and George was not 
enrolled in the Chickasaw nation. The Simmons note for $350 
was left to the attorney that drew the will. George, when he died, 
had nothing but his clothing, a watch, a trunk, some papers 
(which Penniman took), and two cents in his pocket. 

The papers included this note: 

Jan. 13 1902 [error for 1903] 
I am informed that I made a will a few days ago and am indistinct 
of having done so. I herewith] recall every letter syllable and word of 
any will that I may have signed at Enid. 

I owe Jack Bernstein about Ten Dollars but he has my watch in 
pawn for the amt. 

D. E. George 

Possibly the second will was a device to revive George's declining 

Bates ascribed to St. Helen a keen interest in the drama and 
things theatrical, and called George "a constant attendant at the 

n Ib.;p. 27. 

30 See picture facing p. 276 of the "Escape." 


theaters at El Reno, Enid, Oklahoma City, and Guthrie." 40 
George, Bates said, was so struck by the genius of the leading lady 
of a theatrical company playing in those towns that he obtained 
an introduction to her, claiming to be J. L. Harris, a correspon- 
dent of the Dramatic Mirror. He acted as her dramatic coach and 
wrote for her a play, "A Life within the Shadow of Sin." In 1921 
Bates stated that this actress was Josie Cameron (Mrs. Charles A. 
Cameron); Mrs. Cameron, interviewed in Chicago, said that she 
had known John W. Robinson, the Mirror's actual representative 
at Enid, but no J. L. Harris. Robinson had died in Enid before 
George arrived there. 41 

Did John Booth become either St. Helen or George? 

Responsible testimony (much of it in sworn statements) by 
those who knew St. Helen is in such consistent disagreement with 
Bates' descriptions that we must look upon these as fiction. Both 
in broader outlines and in significant details, the St. Helen "con- 
fession" is so wholly at odds with known facts that we must sup- 
pose either that Booth by 1872 retained most fantastic memories 
of his own adventures or that Bates in his figments was both 
ignorant and clumsy. 

In the case of George, W. H. Ryan was quite untouched by the 
arguments of Bates; and Penniman, jesting at Bates' "real posi- 
tive" proofs, said, "Bates is the only man who ever tried to con- 
vince me as to the real identity of this bird." 

"I never thought he was John Wilkes Booth," said C. R. Miller 
of El Reno, who knew George well and of whom George bought 
house paint and hair dye. T. F. Hensley, editor from 1901 to 1903 
of the El Reno Democrat, said that the common impression in El 
Reno was that George was "just a drunken bum." 

Among those who were susceptible to the Booth ballyhoo after 
George's death was G. E. Smith. He had lent various sums to 
George. His wife was the beneficiary of George's first will, and 
Smith himself was executor. For a time he hoped to make "big 
money" in partnership with Finis Bates by exhibiting the "re- 
mains." Both Mr. and Mrs. Smith were satisfied that somewhere 
George had "considerable property." Smith said that often George, 

40 "Escape"; p. 299. 

41 Enid Wave, Oct. 13, 1902. 


"under the influence of liquor," had styled himself "a man with a 
past." Once he referred to killing somebody in Texas. George's 
confession to Ida Harper is quite at variance with St. Helen's con- 
fession to Bates and in itself is equally impossible. 

Penniman said of Bates' tintype: "I was never able to see any 
striking resemblance between the body and the tintype." And 
he added: "In fact, Bates asked me to do all I could to make the 
body look like the picture and so we combed the hair and mus- 
tache accordingly." Already the dye was beginning to fade. 

There is no marked resemblance between the tintype and good 
authentic portraits of John Booth. Bates must have been conscious 
of this. In his book, the "Escape," the portrait facing page 202 and 
titled "John Wilkes Booth, Aged 38" is not, as he states, "from 
the tin-type." It is from an independent and extremely wooden 
original, based on the tintype but with a scenic background 
painted in (as in old oil portraits), with the dress altered, and with 
the head more youthful than in the tintype and distinctly more 
like some of the later authentic portraits of Booth. Bates' alleged 
portrait of Booth at twenty-seven also is "faked." It is derived 
from genuine carte-de-viste portraits of Booth but resembles the 
St. Helen-Booth fraud far more than either resembles the true 
John Wilkes. Both are indeed counterfeit presentments— and look 
so. The cracked tintype that Bates produced at Enid and later ex- 
hibited to F. L. Black and W. G. Shepherd was not distinctive. 
On seeing a photograph of it, says F. L. Black, an undertaker in 
Leadville remarked: "I buried a hundred fellows that looked very 
much like that, back in the early days." 

Bates in his book made a great to-do over Joseph Jefferson's 
recognizing the tintype as a portrait of Booth. He said that by 
appointment he called on Jefferson in Memphis on April 14th, 
1 9°3- Jefferson looked at the tintype and (according to Bates) 
observed, "This is John Wilkes Booth, if John Wilkes Booth was 
living when this picture was taken." Bates adds, "I deem it my 
duty to say that I was impressed with the idea that Mr. Jefferson 
was by no means surprised. . . . [He] gave expression to no more 
surprise than to ask, 'Where did you get it?' " 

What Mr. Jefferson actually thought may be gathered from his 
reply to a letter from Oliver D. Street of Birmingham, Alabama, 


at that time secretary of the Tennessee Valley Historical Society. 

Buzzard's Bay, Mass., June 10, 1903 
Mr. Oliver D Street 
Dear Sir: 

In reply to your enquiry I beg to say that a gentleman called on me 
last spring and related to me his story contained in your letter. He 
showed me also a tintype much disfigured and asked me if I did not 
recognize it as John Wilkes Booth. I told him that it bore a kind of 
resemblance to him but that as I had not seen Booth since he was 19 
years old and as the tintype was evidently that of a man of 55 or sixty 
it was quite impossible for me to give him any satisfactory information 
on the subject — and this is what he calls my "identification of Booth's 
remains" — rather weak evidence for such an important case — and I do 
not think that Miss Clara Morris (who also denies the identification) 
has had any further testimony beyond the uncertain tintype. 

The gentleman further stated that he was trying to obtain the evi- 
dence so that he could get possession of the dead man's estate for his 
client. My opinion is that there is not the slightest foundation for the 
truth of this rambling story. 

Sincerely yours 

J Jefferson 

Bates described identifying marks that he recognized in George's 
body at Enid in 1903: a high thumb-joint on the right hand; an 
unevenness of the right eyebrow, throwing it out of alignment 
with the left; and "a slight indentation on the front of the shin 
bone" of the right leg. 42 They do not prove that George was 
Booth. Booth's hand were not deformed. Numerous authentic 
photographs of him (including one that his brother Edwin kept) 
show his right hand plainly, with no sign of any distortion. But 
his left hand bore his initials in India ink— and both Penniman 
and Ryan said there were no such marks on George. Booth's eye- 
brows were not mismatched. Clara Morris, who acted with Booth 
in a stock company at Cleveland, Ohio, tells how, in a rehearsal 
of "Richard III," J. G. McCollom, the Richmond to Booth's 
Richard, dealt Booth an accidental sword-blow across the fore- 
head, causing a gash that cut into "one eyebrow." Bates quotes 
her account 43 and from it he got the hypothesis of an "uneven 
brow." But the injury left no permanent mark. 

W. E. Robare, chief of police at El Reno from 1900 to 1903, 

42 "Escape"; pp. 262-263. 

""Life on the Stage"; pp. 97-98. "Escape"; pp. 197-199. 


said of George, "His eyebrows were heavy [which Booth's were 
not] and were perfect matches." 44 Neither thumb nor eyebrow 
was ever mentioned by Booth's friends, referred to in testimony, 
spoken of in the newspapers, or included in any official descrip- 
tions of Booth. 

As for an indented right shin, William H. Ryan, to whom the 
world owed George's mummy, said that "as far as he could see, 
both of George's legs were whole and sound." Shepherd, when he 
viewed the mummy in the Bates garage in 1924, was requested to 
note "a slight irregularity on the bone of the right ankle"; but he 
found this "difficult for me to see." 45 Moreover, it was Booth's left 
leg that was injured. 

There are no known specimens of St. Helen's handwriting. Of 
George's, there are the signatures to his two wills; his check for 
$350 (the payment he made on the cottage at El Reno); the sen- 
tence he wrote for Mrs. Harper, with his "J. Wilkes Booth" added 
thereto; and the note revoking his will of December 31st, 1902. 
None of these at all resembled the handwriting of John Booth as 
shown in his correspondence, on his signed photographs, or in 
his diary. W. G. Shepherd, in his investigation for Harper's, was 
sure that George's signature proved that he was not Booth, for 
George's writing was illiterate, each letter formed separately and 
painfully. 46 


(Above) Signature to the Memorandum D. E. George 
gave to Mrs. Harper 

(Below) Authentic signature of John Booth 

44 Dearborn Independent, Apr. 25, 1925; p. 10. 

45 Dearborn Independent, Apr. 25, 1925; p. 11. Harper's Magazine, Nov. 1924; 
p. 703. 

40 In Francis Wilson's "J onn Wilkes Booth," the plate facing p. 250 has what is 
offered as a reduced facsimile of a page from Booth's diary. Unfortunately, through 
some error, this is not from the diary nor is the handwriting Booth's. 


"Especial attention," writes Bates, "is called to Gen. Dana's 
identification of the tintype picture of John Wilkes Booth." 
Until he had written to Dana, Bates says that his own idea was 
that the tintype "must be a picture of some one of the Herolds." 47 
After he wrote to Dana, Dana sent him likenesses of Booth and 
Herold, and then Bates says that he knew St. Helen "was indeed 
the man he claimed to be." But when Bates sent Dana a photo- 
graph of the St. Helen tintype, Dana suggested that it might be 
Junius Brutus II (of whom he evidently knew nothing), and 
unequivocally set down that in 1865 he had seen John Booth 
lying dead. In brief, Dana had helped Bates persuade himself that 
St. Helen was Booth— but Dana knew better. 

Clara Morris was cited by Bates because her description of the 
John Booth she knew so perfectly fitted John St. Helen! She did 
not identify the two. When it was reported that Miss Morris had 
positively identified George's body as that of Booth, the New 
York Tribune said: 

Miss Clara Morris denied last evening [June 2nd, 1903] any such 
identification. She said that three years ago she received a letter written 
in a rambling way from a man who claimed to know that Booth was 
living, but she paid no attention to it. 48 

On June 11th, 1903, F. C. Harriott, Clara Morris' husband, 
wrote to Oliver D. Street that his wife was "no believer in the 
story of Booth's substitution and of his only recent death." He 
stated that when her "Life on the Stage" appeared, with a chap- 
ter on Booth, 49 a person in the South wrote to say that Booth was 
still alive and to ask an audience with Miss Morris in New York 
on a given day. "I answered his note by saying that the audience 
would be given, but no one appeared." . . . Harriott added: 
"We take no stock in the occasional sensations pertaining to David 
George or others." 

Bates tells of an interview he says he had at Memphis in Feb- 
ruary 1903 with Junius Brutus Booth III. Born on January 
6th, 1868, this Junius Brutus had never seen his Uncle John. 

47 "Escape"; pp. 168-169. 

48 June 3, 1903; p. 4. 

w New York, 1901. The chapter was first printed in McClure's Magazine, Feb. 1901; 
pp. 299-304. 


After Bates had sought him out, he gave what Bates is pleased to 
term a "voluntary statement." Even after possible editing by 
Bates, the statement amounts to no more than that, having ex- 
amined a portrait (ostensibly the St. Helen tintype) which Bates 
showed him, Junius Brutus III thought he saw in it a certain 
resemblance to John and to others of the Booths. 


Bates gives many anecdotes that seem to confirm his theory— 
until they are analyzed! One romantic gentleman said (according 
to Bates) that at his house in Mississippi, in the dusk of an eve- 
ning of 1869, "an erratic fellow" arrived who said he was a Ku 
Klux Klansman and had been run out of Arkansas by the militia. 
To his sure knowledge Booth had escaped to Mexico, where he 
had fought in Maximilian's army and then roved about disguised 
as a padre. Bates identified this Klansman with John St. Helen. 
But Maximilian was active in the field from February to May 
15th, 1867; and at that time St. Helen was presumed to have been 
at Nebraska City or on his trek from there to San Francisco. 
According to Bates himself, St. Helen said that after leaving San 
Francisco he "went into Mexico." 50 

Among Bates' many affidavits, one from N. C. Newman con- 
tained details so important that it is strange St. Helen omitted 
them. Newman said that his mother was a half-sister of Mary Ann 
(Holmes) Booth, John Booth's mother; and that Booth after his 
escape from Garrett's, had come to the Newman home at Friend- 
ville, Kentucky, on Raccoon Creek, and had been cared for there. 
Bates' St. Helen had said he had remained for a week as a 
"wounded Confederate soldier" with "a widow lady and her 
young son" who lived fifty or sixty miles southwest of Warfield 
(in eastern Kentucky) but "whose name I can not now remem- 
ber." It seems incredible that Booth could have forgotten his 
mother's half-sister's married name. And the place where the 
Newmans lived cannot be identified, for no Friendville in Ken- 
tucky appears in atlases of 1865. 51 

60 "Escape"; p. 58. 

81 lb.; p. 57. Bernie Babcock cites the "affidavit" in her fictional "Booth and the 
Spirit of Lincoln," and says she examined the original in Memphis. Other equally 
reliable "affidavits" were in "the Bates collection." 


Were John St. Helen and David E. George the same person? 
On the face of it, it seems improbable. It is far more improbable 
that John Booth was metamorphosed into St. Helen, the "typical 
saloon desperado" of the Texan Hinterland, or into George, the 
boozy house painter and loafer of Oklahoma. 

The St. Helen of 1872, as Granbury folk knew him, bore no 
resemblance to the John Booth who had been so colorful and 
distinctive only seven or eight years before. A. P. Gordon of 
Granbury (once St. Helen's employer) calls St. Helen in 1872 a 
man at least forty. Booth would have been well under thirty-five. 
Perhaps Booth and St. Helen were alike in medium height, welter- 
weight figure, dark hair, and pendent mustache. 52 But features 
and planes of the face were quite different. St. Helen's hair was 
not so wavy, had not the "inky blackness" of Booth's tragic head. 
His ears, eyes, chin were unlike Booth's. The vital spirit that lives 
in Booth's most casual photographs was lacking. St. Helen had 
none of the gifts that had made Booth eminent upon the stage 
when he was but twenty-five; none of the graces that made Booth 
remembered as "so bright, so gay, so kind." 

Said Editor Frank Gaston of Granbury: "No one around here 
at that time [the 'seventies] thought St. Helen so strange and 
different, but, of course, many after they heard he might be John 
Wilkes Booth thought him quite different." A quarter-century 
later, George is even more unconvincing. "It is rather funny," 
said C. R. Miller, druggist of El Reno, "but while George was 
here he was known only as an old drunken painter, but as soon 
as the story got around that he might be John Wilkes Booth all 
the people that had ever seen him were telling how he quoted 
Shakespeare and how dramatic he had been. It seemed that then 
all knew there was something different about Old Man George." 

Neither George nor St. Helen really carried any air of the 
stage. A. P. Gordon, at one time St. Helen's employer in Gran- 
bury, said that St. Helen "never to my knowledge took part in 
any plays or entertainments." 

In December 1931 United Press reports described a clinical 

62 We do not know the actual date of the tintype. Bates says 1877, but appar- 
ently St. Helen left Granbury long before that. 


study of the mummy by a group of seven physicians in Chicago. 
X-rays and electric dissecting saws discovered a dislocated left 
thumb, a broken fibula (which leg not specified), and a portion 
of a signet ring engraved with what was possibly the letter J3. 53 
The physician directing the work announced: "I can say safely 
that we believe Booth's body is here in my office." To this physi- 
cian, Dr. Orlando Scott, the present writer later sent a few queries. 
From his answers it seems certain that he looked for no identifying 
marks other than those mentioned in Bates' "Escape." 

In 1938 two national weeklies carried articles and pictures 
about "the mummy that might be Booth"— an object in contrast 
with which P. T. Barnum's "Feejee Mermaid" achieves in retro- 
spect a kind of dignity. 54 The myth persists. 

After David E. George's suicide and while Enid was making 
holiday, Tom Hensley of the El Reno Democrat had two letters 
from the East. One was signed by Laura Ida Booth, who claimed 
George as her father; the other was from Laura Ida's brother. 
Hensley heard no more from the brother; but from Laura Ida he 
received a number of letters about the estate of the deceased. 
There was, as we have learned, no estate— and Laura Ida's interest 
waned. Laura Ida was a vaudeville performer who had before this 
given out that she was a daughter of John Wilkes Booth, and ap- 
parently had at times been thus billed in the South. 

More than twenty years afterward— in November 1926— the 
brother burst into print. McCager W. Payne, a half-brother of 
Laura Ida, was employed as a guard at a cotton mill in Fayette- 
ville, Tennessee. To the Booth survival tale he added many new 
particulars. 55 

"Bates mentions ("Escape"; p. 262) a high thumb-joint on the right hand. 

M Saturday Evening Post, Feb. 19, 1938; pp. 16, 17, 84. Life, July 11, 1938; pp. 
4, 5, 7. The pictures there shown may be compared with that facing p. 276 of Bates' 
volume — The Post article said (p. 38) that the mummy had been exhibited on the 
campus of Northwestern University at Evanston. President Walter Dill Scott denied 
this in a letter to the present writer. 

"An interview with him by Robert Hunt occupied nearly a page (p. 3) of the 
Nashville Tennessean for Nov. 14, 1926. This had portraits of Laura Ida and 
McCager. Mr. Hunt, later connected with the editorial department of the Nashville 


His mother, Payne said, had been Louisa J. Price, daughter of 
a Cumberland Presbyterian minister. She was first married to Z. 
C. Payne, a young grocer who served in the Civil War and died 
in 1871. After that for a time she made her living as a needle- 
woman at Sewanee, where she worked for the students of the 
University of the South. At Sewanee she became acquainted with 
a handsome cabinetmaker named John W. Booth, who told her he 
was a "distant cousin" of the actor who had shot Lincoln. 

The stranger, according to McCager (who was eight years old 
when his father died), was "black haired, with hair of the kind 
that curls easily if allowed to grow to any length." He had "very 
dark eyes and a black mustache, slightly curled at the tips." He 
weighed "about 145 pounds"; he was "always well dressed." 
Though he got along well enough at his trade, his "dainty 
hands" might have been thought out of keeping with it, and he 
was distinctly "a theatrical man." 

He entertained students Saturday nights with sleight of hand 
and readings from plays— when he was "moody," from tragedies. 
He liked attention at home or in public; and asked no fee for his 
performances. He was "as clever and tricky a hand with cards as 
ever shuffled a pack," and so supple that he could bend back- 
ward with a pin in his mouth and stick the pin into the floor. 

On February 25th, 1872, Louisa Payne and John W. Booth were 
married at Sewanee by C. C. Rose, a justice of the peace. 56 One 
evening, as he was dressing for his soiree, John W. turned abruptly 
to his wife, pointed to "some scars on his leg," and asked: 

"Miss Lou, do you know what made those knots? / got them in 
a fall on the stage of Ford's Theatre when I killed Abraham Lin- 

Soon the cabinetmaker began to talk of a fortune that was to be 
his— the $100,000 put up by the group that planned Lincoln's 
death. The man killed at Garrett's was really, he said, a cousin— 

Banner, kindly sent to the present writer a copy of the story as originally printed. 
Extracts from it were given in the Literary Digest for Dec. 25, 1926 (pp. 40-41), un- 
der the heading "When Did John Wilkes Booth Die?" 

58 The Tennessean published a half-tone cut of the record, from a photograph 
by a member of its staff. The license was issued by the county clerk of Franklin 
County on Feb. 24. Robert Hunt said that the license stands recorded in the clerk's 
office at Winchester. 


mistaken for him. He himself "hid in a log all night" before ven- 
turing southward. 

Louisa and John W. and the boy left Sewanee on July 1st, 1872. 
In Memphis John W. took a laborer's job in a cottonseed oil mill 
and rented dingy rooms at a cheap hotel. Peering through the 
curtains, Louisa came to recognize the members of a suspicious- 
looking gang, some of whom were forever slouching past her win- 
dows. Then one day she overheard them say, "That's where he 
lives, the dirty skunk." "Run," she called to McCager, "run tell 
your pa there's men here to kill him!" 

When the boy reached the mill, John W. sent word back to 
Louisa that "transportation would be awaiting her within the 
hour." They moved to a boarding-house in southwestern Mem- 
phis; and for a space they breathed freely. Then once more the 
slouching figures passed to and fro. There was a desperate return 
to the former lodgings. One night John W. did not come home, 
and Louisa hurried to the offices of the mill. Yes, they said, he had 
taken his pay check from the cashier. Before he had left the win- 
dow, two men had approached him. They had bowed and tipped 
their caps; John W. had returned the salute. Louisa and Mc- 
Cager never saw him again. 

With assistance from a church in Memphis, the two went back 
to Sewanee. Louisa opened a steam laundry. McCager's half-sister 
was born, and was named Laura Ida Elizabeth "after a sister of 
Booth and a sister of her mother." Following Louisa's death, Mc- 
Cager and Laura Ida lived with an aunt. Then Laura Ida, only 
fourteen, ran away with the John Robinson circus and became a 
trapeze artiste. She married Charles Levine, went with him to 
England; and had a son. After Levine's death she married Artman 
Driver, professionally known as Art Norman, with whom she 
played several vaudeville circuits. She died in 1925, at the reputed 
age of fifty-three. A petite creature, "she retained her youth re- 
markably and passed for a much younger woman, in makeup look- 
ing much like a girl." 57 In 1920 she and her husband appeared at 
Loew's Theatre in Memphis (home town of Finis Bates, who 
was then living) as "Norman and Jeannette" in an act called "Bits 
of Versatility." 

67 Robert Hunt in the Tennessean. 


McCager told his interviewer that in 1903 he heard from an 
uncle, Jerome F. Payne, about David George's suicide at Enid, 
Oklahoma, and of George's claim to be John Booth. Then Mc- 
Cager wrote to Tom Hensley of El Reno. Laura Ida (said Mc- 
Cager) went to Enid with Finis L. Bates of Memphis but de- 
clined to join McCager in a suit for a large tract of land belonging 
to George, for she thought "a 50-50 attorney's fee was too high." 
McCager in 1926 was still convinced, however, that a fortune- 
maybe more than $100,000— awaited him. Unfortunately he had 
not the means to press his claim at law. 

In 1872 John W. Booth of Tennessee was a cabinetmaker in 
Sewanee, was married there on February 25th, and did not leave 
until July 1st. So he could not have been St. Helen, who was in 
Texas in 1872. 58 He could hardly have been George in any case 
—at least on the basis of the interview with McCager Payne. 

In 1935 William H. Smathers, United States senator from New 
Jersey, was approached by Charles Wilson Asburn of Atlantic City, 
"a grandson of Booth," in an attempt to get title to "valuable 
Oklahoma oil lands which Booth was said to have owned." Asburn 
gave Smathers "letters which identified him as the son of Mrs. Art 
Norman, a vaudeville actress, who was identified as Booth's 
daughter before her death in 1924 [?]." Smathers learned that pre- 
vious to Laura Ida's death Roy J. Wilson, a lawyer in Tennessee, 
had looked into her claim to Oklahoma lands but had found that 
"Booth" had "willed his estate to a Catholic institution whose 
claim is invulnerable." 59 

Though he decided that "the title could not be challenged," 
Wilson had nevertheless for years believed that Booth "was not 
slain by his pursuers" but escaped to Tennessee, where he was 

68 Bates says that in "the spring of 1872" St. Helen was at Glen Rose ("Escape"; 

P- 7)- 

50 See the New York Post, Apr. 15, 1935; p. 20. The "lands in Oklahoma" are pre- 
sumably the seven hundred acres that David E. George did not own but bequeathed 
to an imaginary nephew. The will read: "I further provide that in the event that 
my said nephew is not alive then I give, devise and bequeath all of said tract of land 
or so much thereof as may be granted to me by the Government to the Sisters of 
Charity of Dallas, Texas" (Dec. 31, 1902). The Mother Superior at Dallas, in 
answer to an inquiry, said nothing was known there of any David E. George; adding, 
"We do not think we are the Sisters interested." (Campbell's "Escape and Wander- 
ings"; p. 50.) 


married to a "Miss" Payne. Wilson wrote to Smathers: "I have 
proof for the most skeptical that Booth committed suicide at Enid, 
Okla., in 1904 [?]." Was Finis Bates the source of Wilson's proof? 
Even while this volume was being prepared for the press, a new 
Booth escape story appeared in a letter to the New York Sun 
(January 24th, 1940.) The letter, signed A. L. Q. and dated New 
York, January 23rd, told of a Mr. Smythe who 

. . . lived three or four doors from Mrs. Surratt in Washington. At Mr. 
Smythe's house, Mr. Booth, Dr. Mudd and many other wealthy and 
loyal Southerners met and discussed the plot. 

The Southern gentlemen all owned and rode horses. Mr. Booth's and 
Mr. Smythe's horses were identical. On the night that President Lincoln 
was shot a Negro held Mr. Booth's horse — not far from the stage door 
of the theater — and Mr. Smythe's horse stood saddled, bridled and 
untied at Mr. Smythe's door all the evening. 

When word came that the President was shot Mr. Smythe jumped 
on his horse and dashed off in the opposite direction from that planned 
for Mr. Booth. 

Mr. Smythe's children — a boy of 6 or 7 years, and a girl of 9 years — 
were taken to New York to their uncle on Sixty-second street, near 
Third avenue, by different routes and his wife followed. They lived 
in seclusion there for many years, waiting for the father and husband, 
but he never came. 

He was the man who was shot in the barn, whose horse was traced, 
as had been planned, and who hoped to deter pursuit. 

Mr. Smythe's children were my playmates on Sixty-second street. We 
were told by them all about their flight from Washington, and about 
Dr. Mudd. Mr. Booth and Mr. Smythe were both dark, handsome men 
with long black mustaches. One was scarcely distinguishable from the 
other. My parents lived in the nearest house to the uncle, Mr. Smythe, 
on Sixty-second street. His house is a four-story brick house, the only 
original house still standing on the north side, about the eighth house 
from Third avenue. It was owned by a Mr. McClusky. 

A detailed and ingenious story— with not only "scarcely distin- 
guishable" men but "identical" horses! Here is "a Negro" holding 
John Booth's horse "not far from the stage door" of Ford's, 
whereas "Peanuts" Burroughs is known to have held the animal 
at the back door. The only "Mr. Smythe" in the Washington 
directory for 1865 is Perrence Smythe, carpenter, residing not on 
H Street (where Mrs. Surratt lived) but at 398 Twentieth Street 


(west); and in the New York directory for 1864-1865 and 1865- 
1866 there appears to be no entry under Q on East 62nd Street. 

But even if there were a Smythe on H Street and a Q (Quack- 

enbush, Quantrell, Quincy?) on East 62nd Street (then in a re- 
gion of scattered houses without numbers), that still would not 
prove that Booth survived. 


John Booth had been one of America's most eligible bachelors, 
and ladies of many sorts had been interested in him. From the 
tale of his survival was developed as a natural corollary the notion 
that he married. The Booth of the far Pelew Islands introduced to 
his friend Carroll Jackson Donelson a "female" who knew all but 
counted the world well lost. In the rectory of Armstrong-Booth, 
the picturesque clergyman of Richmond and Atlanta, dwelt a 
wife who clung to him despite his alleged rhetorical warning 
that on his hands was the blood of Lincoln. Louisa J. (Price) 
Payne, wedded to John W. Booth, Tennessean cabinetmaker 
and card sharp, followed him blindly, even after he owned to mur- 

On December 5th, 1885, the New York Tribune in a front-page 
dispatch from Boston said: 

It is not generally known that Booth at the time of his death left a 
widow and two children, yet such appears to be the fact. 

The Tribune then told that an anonymous Bostonian "who 
professes to be well acquainted with the widow" had recently sent 
to her a newspaper item "to the effect that some person in Ala- 
bama had published a book in which he attempted to show that 
John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln, was still 
alive." With the item went a note to the widow suggesting that 
"anything she might write" by way of comment "would prove 
interesting to the public." Her reply (as quoted by the Tribune) 

An item has just come to my notice of some man, unknown, in Bir- 
mingham, Ala., who has a desire to resurrect John Wilkes Booth. 
Whoever this man may be, let me warn the public that his only motive 
must be to make money; for as sure as the sun shines in the heavens, 


so sure is John Wilkes Booth dead. I myself saw him buried, saw and 
examined his body before it was laid in its final resting-place. He 
carried marks upon his body known only to his family and intimate 
friends, and these marks were identified by his family. We all know 
that the last act of his life was wrong. We also know we should not 
judge. We know not the why or wherefore, but it is my opinion that 
those of us who live long enough will yet learn that, although it was 
John W. Booth's hands that struck the fatal blow that ended a good 
man's life, yet it was those in high authority who were the head of a 
diabolical conspiracy, Andrew Johnson leader, the result of which 
steeped several families in the deepest of woe, and left a nation to 
mourn. Although not generally known, J. W. Booth left a family; a 
wife and two children, a daughter and a son, now grown to womanhood 
and manhood. This family has lived in seclusion and under a false 
name for twenty years. For these innocent ones' sakes, let their dead 
alone and let them sorrow in peace. I beg for the sake of the Booth 
family, now mourning over the death of the mother of J. Wilkes 
Booth, 60 that the public will show some little charity and leave the 
wrongs that some one has done in the hands of a higher Power, who, in 
His own good time, will make all things right. Let the dead rest for the 
sake of the living and the innocent. 

The detached, impersonal tone of this, its worn phrases and 
hollow piety, make a curious impression. Though she argues 
that "the why or wherefore" of Booth's deed was unknown and 
that we "should not judge," the writer presupposes a faction of 
"those in high authority," with Andrew Johnson at its head, guid- 
ing "a diabolical conspiracy." A point of interest is the assurance 
that John Booth is really dead. Note that the widow speaks of "the 
last act of his life." Any survival tale is here expressly denied. 

Shortly after the appearance of this front-page story in the 
Tribune, with its headline THE WIDOW OF J. WILKES 
BOOTH, Edwin Booth, in a letter to his friend Laurence Hutton, 
wrote indignantly: 

The Tribune contains a d — nable lie about John — this "widow" is 
one of several that wrote to me from different cities — just after his 
death, one of whom — this one, I suspect, got hold of poor Rose & 
robbed her of all the money she had. This is the beginning of another 
blackmail scheme, of which I had some intimation from a Boston law- 
yer some months ago. That horrible business will never be buried — it 

60 Mary Ann (Holmes) Booth died in 1885, having survived her husband thirty- 
three years. 


seems to be one of the Tribune's favorite topics; I frequently see allu- 
sions to it in that paper. 61 

These words straight from the heart of John Booth's famous 
brother throw a convincing ray of light upon a singular phase of 
the Great American Myth. The "widow" subsided from the first 
page and apparently, so far as concerned the news-reading public, 
was allowed to "sorrow in peace." Possibly Edwin Booth or his sis- 
ter Rose (who died in 1889) continued to be made aware of her. 

Laura Ida Elizabeth Booth of Tennessee, circus aerialist and 
vaudevillian, was not John Booth's only alleged daughter. In 
1890, newspaper correspondence from Columbus, Ohio, described 
"an actress whose name and family connection impart a great de- 
gree of interest in her," then at the Globe Theatre with the Boston 
Comic Opera Company (not to be confused with "The Bos- 

Her maiden name was Rita Booth, but she is now the wife of Mr. 
Henderson, the director of the company. Mrs. Booth-Henderson says 
she is the daughter of J. Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Lincoln. She 
remembers her father distinctly, although but 8 years old at the time 
of his death. She was asked concerning the truth or falsity of the re- 
cently published statement of some woman living in the South, to the 
effect that her father was not dead, but that another man had been 
shot on that eventful morning more than twenty-five years ago. She 
emphatically affirmed that her father is dead, that he was shot at that 
time, and that she saw his body a number of times before the burial. 

Mrs. Henderson says her mother died about three years since, leaving 
her as the only child, yet she says she has two half-brothers living. She 
was born in Richmond, Va., and has been on the stage more or less for 
the past fifteen years. She was the leading lady with George C. Miln, 
the preacher-actor, a few years since, and later with Grace Hawthorne. 
She made her first appearance on the stage at the Boston Globe Theatre 
in a minor part. She first appeared in this city at the old Comstock, 
now Metropolitan House, about seven years ago with Palmer in "The 
Danites." She appeared later with the Bennett and Moulton Opera 
company at the Grand four years ago. 

Mrs. Booth-Henderson has many of the characteristic features so 
marked in the Booth family, and her facial resemblance, as well as her 
love for the stage, would seem to be strong evidence of the statement 

61 In the Hutton Collection at Princeton University. 


she makes. She says she has a diary containing much important mem- 
oranda of her father's life, and papers of his, and some time she will 
make them public. 62 

Mrs. Henderson's acquaintances in the profession were familiar 
with her claim to be John Booth's daughter, and knew she some- 
times wore a breastpin or brooch holding a portrait head of John 
Booth. She was married to Al Henderson, an orchestra leader in 
road companies, and often the two were able to get engagements 
together. Her name was really Ogarita. On April 12th, 1892, she 
died at Binghamton, New York, where she was appearing as a 
member of the Floy Crowell company. "She was born about 1858, 
we believe," remarked the Clipper, "and her mother is said to 
have been a once noted actress in the Boston Museum stock in 
the old days." 63 

On the 15th the Times and World of New York carried 
sketches. 64 The World termed her "a clever character actress," and 
added that she "often declared that she did not wish to rise to 
any eminence in the dramatic profession, because she feared her 
relationship would bring unpleasant notoriety." "Several people 
who knew Booth," said the World, "claim to have noted in her the 
clear-cut features, the big ox eyes, the curly hair and high 
brow." 65 

Both the Times and the Clipper had her leaving "a child" of 
about seven; the World said, "Two children, one a girl of thirteen, 
survive her"; the Recorder, two, "one a girl of 12." The World 
quoted the opinion of "a theatrical man" that the "history of Mrs. 
Henderson's mother would be an interesting one"— and said: "It 
was stated at the Players' Club last night that Edwin Booth was 
not at home." 

Late in 1937 John Booth's marriage was the theme of an over- 
written and chaotic volume of five hundred pages, "This One Mad 
Act," "the unknown story of John Wilkes Booth and his family 

62 From a clipping in the John T. Ford Collection. 

83 Apr. 23, 1892; p. 110. The New York Recorder of Apr. 15 said (p. 2), that she 
was "about 35 years old." 

M Times, p. 5; World, p. 1 (with portrait). 

66 /3ow7tis — a classic touch for a Manhattan sheet. Truth is, the Booth eye was 
rather heavy-lidded and Oriental. 


—by his granddaughter." The author was a Mrs. Mann Page (for- 
merly Mrs. Reuben Merrifield), who had been a staff writer for 
newspapers and under the name Izola Forrester had written books 
for girls. In "This One Mad Act" she presented herself as the 
daughter of Rita (Ogarita) Booth and George W. Hills, Rita's 
first husband; and as the adopted daughter of George Forrester of 
Chicago, whose name she legally assumed in January 1893. 

The sprawling, repetitious form of the narrative, with its blun- 
ders, irrelevancies, and loose-jointed structure, may have been 
deliberate. For there are occasional passages of no little charm 
(mainly in the earlier chapters), and throughout are the ease and 
fluency of one who has been used to filling space. 

"This One Mad Act" introduces to us a grandmother who was 
born either in London (p. 172) or on board ship off Martha's 
Vineyard during a storm (p. 10). The date of her birth, as given 
by herself, is quoted as September 11th, 1839 (p. 172); but the 
date of her death is given (p. 44) as November 9th, 1887, and it 
is said (p. 49) that she was then in her fifty-first year. She was 
(pp. 5, 10) the child of Abram Mills, a Yankee sea captain, and 
Izola Maria Mendosa of Cordoba. (But on p. 172 she says the 
mother's name was Violetta.) Reared in Baltimore by her aunt, 
Mrs. Henry D'Arcy, she was known as Izola Martha Mills and as 
Izola Martha D'Arcy. She also called herself Izola Violetta Miller, 
Oriana Collier, Eleanore St. Clare, and Hero Strong (pp. 46, 106, 


In 1858 at a fancy-dress ball in Richmond Izola Martha D'Arcy, 
glittering in white silk and diamonds, met John Booth, then, ac- 
cording to "This One Mad Act," leading man of the Richmond 
Theatre's stock company. It was on both sides a case of love at first 
sight. Though the aunt's husband violently opposed the match, 
they soon were married. John continued to act in Richmond, but 
established a retreat for his wife in the Valley of the Shenandoah. 
There, on Qctober 23rd, 1859, Ogarita Rosalie (Rita) Booth was 
born. After Lincoln's murder, Izola Martha Booth, in May 1865, 
fled with the daughter and found shelter in the Baltimore home 
of John H. Stevenson, who had been a friend of John Booth's. 


In the fall of 1868 she journeyed to California to meet Booth! 

From California she returned to Baltimore, where on February 
27th, 1870, her child Harry was born— that is, the author of 
"This One Mad Act" thus gives place and date, but the record in 
Izola Martha's Bible named February 27th, 1871, as the date and 
Boston as the place. By 1871 Izola Martha was in Boston. 66 The 
narrative then grows more vague. There are scattered references 
to photographs of Izola Martha in the roles of Isabella ("Measure 
for Measure"), Lady Macbeth, and Medea; to photographs of her 
friends in the stock company of the Boston Museum; to Izola 
Martha's theatric ways and speech. She is pictured coaching Rita 
for the part of the Lady Anne in "Richard III." Everybody is 
supposed to have accepted the fact that she had been of the stage. 

In 1882 she removed to Canterbury, Connecticut. There she 
queened it, aloof, serene, always with means to suit her needs— a 
mystery to her country neighbors. She lived in a mansion called 
Terrace Hall, with great windows, silver-handled doors, a cupola, 
and a ballroom with a theater in it. 

Harry emerges in small parts in Boston— carries a spear in a 
production of "Othello" by the elder Salvini; then drifts to New 
York, a character after O. Henry's own heart. Improvident, devil- 
may-care, he sings in saloons and all-night restaurants, passes the 
hat. He is known to all the hangers-on from the Battery to Har- 
lem, is friend alike of Chuck Connors or of Oscar Hammerstein. 
At Kid McCoy's place a Southerner tells him he looks like John 
Booth— he bows and says there must be a mistake. In the summer 
he entertains at resort hotels or turns to small-time vaudeville. 
He dies in 1918, taking from the world the visible evidence that 
John Booth did not die at Garrett's. 

Who did? The substitute this time was a nameless fellow-knight 
of the Golden Circle. He parleyed with the soldiers while Booth 
escaped. He purposed to surrender, but before he could do so, he 
was killed by a "wild shot." All who aided John Booth had been 
members of the Golden Circle, bound by oath to respond to his 
call. A group photograph of Knights of the Golden Circle proves 

60 The Bible, it seems, had Mar. 23, 1870, as the date of a marriage to John H. 
Stevenson — to protect Izola Martha by letting her have his name. 


manifestly to be of Knights Templar— but the discrepancy is 
lightly brushed aside. We are asked to see John Booth in the rear 
center, no matter what knights they are. 

The inconsistencies between this unfoldment and the statement 
of the "widow" who in December 1885 addressed the public 
through the Tribune are evident. But there likewise are incon- 
sistencies between it and the statement by Rita Booth in 1890. 

(a) If Rita was born on October 23rd, 1859, she was not eight years 
old in April 1865, but about five-and-a-half. 

(b) If Booth escaped, Rita must have been mistaken in supposing that 
he was mortally wounded and that she saw his body "a number of 

(c) If Harry, born in 1870 (or 1871) and living until 1918, was really 
"child of the escape," Rita was wrong in saying that in 1887 (when 
her mother died) she was the only child. 

(d) If Rita was born in the Shenandoah Valley, she was incorrect in 
giving Richmond as her birthplace. 

What happened to John Booth? A Colonel Young said that one 
Jimmy Kelley (whose name proved to be Wells), an actor friend of 
John's, had received from John a series of letters written at Bom- 
bay. But the letters have vanished. Wells told Colonel Young (so 
said the Colonel) that John's letters ceased in 1879, and that John 
died at Bombay in that year. 

It would be a lengthy task to point out in detail all that is 
wrong in "This One Mad Act." But we can take one of the main 
threads of the story and have a look at its credibility. 

Let us begin with Augustin Daly. "This One Mad Act" states 
that he was in Chicago in 1 894 and there said that after Lincoln's 
murder those who had known John Booth at all well were in 
danger; that Junius Brutus II and John S. Clarke were arrested; 
and that within a few years Edwin was shot at while playing in 
Cincinnati. So it is not surprising (according to Daly in "This 
One Mad Act") that Izola Martha's whereabouts around that pe- 
riod were uncertain, for she had been in hiding. She had been 
married to Booth in the North, Daly explained, probably because 
Edwin Booth recently had bought a house at Cos Cob, Connec- 
ticut, and the house was unoccupied because Edwin was at that 


time in Australia. Daly is also said to have left an order for three 
complimentary seats for "Much Ado about Nothing," then run- 
ning in Chicago with Ada Rehan and Mrs. Gilbert in the cast. 

Of course, Daly could not have said these things. He knew that 
Edwin Booth was shot at not in Cincinnati but in Chicago, at 
McVicker's Theatre; and not within a few years but on April 
23rd, 1879, fourteen years after Lincoln's murder. The shooting 
was done by Mark Gray, a young clerk from St. Louis, whose 
grievance was that Edwin "was an obstacle in the way of his at- 
tainment of histrionic glory." 67 It had not the remotest connec- 
tion with what John had done. 

The year 1894 has been called by his brother, Judge Daly, "one 
of the hardest working years" in Augustin Daly's life. 68 Daly, 
after a long absence in England, was busy in New York. At the 
end of September two of his companies went on the road for 
brief tours. Miss Rehan, who did not arrive from England until 
August, headed one company, which gave "As You Like It," "The 
Last Word," "Love on Crutches," "The School for Scandal," "The 
Taming of the Shrew," and "Twelfth Night." Mrs. Gilbert was 
not with Miss Rehan but in the "company of comedians," which 
also included James Lewis, Henry Dixey, William Gilbert, Percy 
Haswell, and Laura Hansen. Miss Rehan's first performance of 
Beatrice in "Much Ado about Nothing" was at Daly's Theatre 
in New York on the snowy night of December 23rd, 1896. Hence 
she could not have been appearing in that role under Daly's man- 
agement at Chicago in 1894. 69 

Why, at the height of the midwinter theatrical season, would 
John Booth, member of the Richmond Theatre's stock company, 
travel to Cos Cob, Connecticut, to be married? The officiating 
clergyman— according to the book— was the Rev. Peleg Weaver of 
the Methodist Protestant Church at North Cos Cob. Peleg Weaver 
was a striking figure. Both of his arms had been blown away in 
an explosion and he wore cork arms; but he was able to turn the 
leaves of his pulpit Bible with his mouth. He was not, however, at 

67 Winter, "Life and Art of Edwin Booth"; p. 128. New York Tribune, Apr. 24, 
1879; p. 1 — Apr. 25; p. 1 — Apr. 26; p. 4. 

68 J. F. Daly, "The Life of Augustin Daly"; p. 580. 

69 Winter, "Ada Rehan: A Study"; p. 165. Programmes and box-office records in 
the Daly Collection, Brander Matthews Dramatic Museum, Columbia University. 


North Cos Cob in 1859; it was not until 1871 that he became 
pastor of the "Horse Neck Society" of the Methodist Protestant 
Church there. 70 

In 1859, and for years thereafter, Edwin Booth had no house 
in Cos Cob to lend to his brother. On August 16th, 1867, farm 
land along the shore at Studwell's Point was bought for $3,600 
from Edward Mead of Greenwich by Charles M. Barras, theatrical 
agent and manager, a translator and adapter of plays, and author 
of "The Black Crook," which made such a stir at Niblo's Garden 
in 1866. It was Barras' "fine marine villa" Cedar Cliff (built on 
the Mead land), with the something more than eight acres around 
it, that Edwin Booth bought for his second wife, Mary McVicker, 
on August 13th, 1872. 71 

Furthermore, Edwin Booth in January 1859 was not i n Aus- 
tralia but in the United States. It was in 1854 he visited Australia, 
Laura Keene being in the company. A letter written by him from 
London on December 12th, 1880, gives an account of his life and 
career. In it he says: "Went as a 'star' to Australia 1854— managed 
the Royal Hawaiian theatre, Honolulu, Sandwich Islands in 1855. 
In '56 began a series of professional tours through the United 
States." 72 

The whole recital of John Booth's alleged marriage as given in 
"This One Mad Act" is incredible. Although there would have 
been no reason for concealment, the Booth family knew nothing 
of any such marriage. No such marriage is to be found recorded 
among marriages in Greenwich township from 1855 to 1865. 
Neither church records nor personal records of the Rev. Peleg 
Weaver are offered in proof, and there seems to be no marriage 

70 S. P. Mead, "Ye Historie of Ye Town of Greenwich"; pp. 435-437. — In a letter 
to the present writer, the Rev. Roby F. Day stated that the Memorial Roll of the 
Eastern Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church shows that the Rev. Peleg 
Weaver united with the New York Conference in 1853 and died in 1882. "This One 
Mad Act" has Mr. Forrester in 1904 searching in "old records" at "the headquarters 
of the Methodist Episcopal Church" in New York. The Rev. Mr. Weaver's church 
was the Methodist Protestant, whose headquarters were in Baltimore. 

71 Mary Frances McVicker (nee Runnion) was married to Edwin Booth at Long 
Branch in 1869. He had married Mary Devlin in July i860. She died in February 
1863. — Greenwich Land Record, vol. 33, p. 365; vol. 40, pp. 300-301; vol. 45, pp. 
48-49. Edwin sold the property in 1876. The house was razed in 1940. 

72 Original in the Robinson Locke Collection, New York Public Library. 


certificate extant. Izola Martha is supposed to have had a wedding 
ring with the initials J.W.B.— but it was interred with her. After 
the mysterious loss or destruction of so many pages of Izola 
Martha's "diaries," those remaining cannot aid us much. One 
(as reproduced in the book) carries an allusion to the Rev. Mr. 
Weaver's kindness after the death of the alleged husband. And 
Rita Booth "emphatically affirmed" that the death occurred in 

A home in the Shenandoah Valley region in 1859 would have 
been most inconvenient for a stock-company player in Richmond. 
Time-tables of that day show that to go from Richmond to Wood- 
stock, by way of Gordonsville and Manassas Junction, required 
the use of three railways and took over eleven hours. Besides, 
John Booth was not the leading man of the Richmond Theatre 
stock company. He was doing small parts and not even using the 
Booth name. 

Among the anecdotes in "This One Mad Act" that are em- 
ployed to bolster its thesis is one about the well-known actor Wil- 
fred Clarke, son of Asia Booth Clarke, John Booth's sister. Once 
in London, it is said, the grandmother, Mrs. J. B. Booth (Mary 
Holmes Booth) was driving with Asia, John McCullough, Edwin, 
and Wilfred, when suddenly, as a man approached, the grand- 
mother screamed and Edwin cried, "My God, it's John!" Edwin 
got out and talked with the man. The grandmother also attempted 
to do so but was prevented by McCullough. 

Mr. Clarke kindly explained to the present writer that the 
grandmother was not present, that no one screamed, that Edwin 
did not cry, "My God, it's John!" The man called Edwin "Ned"; 
and Mr. Clarke took him to be some actor whom Uncle Edwin 
knew. The genesis of the falsified report Mr. Clarke traced to 
Blanche Booth (Blanche De Bar.) She had told him that in 1902 
in Oklahoma a man stood in the corridor outside her hotel room 
and called to her. She thought him a "stagedoor Johnnie," but 
after he had gone she fell to thinking that the voice was the voice 
of John Booth. "I then told her my story," said Mr. Clarke, "to 
prove how easily one could be mistaken. I never dreamed that she 


would give it to a newspaper and in such a garbled manner." 73 
A variant of Blanche's story is that the stranger thrust under the 
door a card on which was written the name John Wilkes Booth. 
Perhaps he was D. E. George. 74 William Seymour, who knew 
Blanche De Bar and corresponded with her, stated 75 that she was 
the daughter of J. B. Booth II and Clementina De Bar, sister of 
Ben De Bar. The New York Mirror in an obituary sketch of J. B. 
Booth II said: 76 "The published statement that Blanche De Bar is 
his daughter is untrue. That lady is not related to the Booth 
family except by the marriage of her mother." 

The author of "This One Mad Act" always refers to Blanche 
De Bar as Blanche Dis De Bar Booth, and speaks of Ben Dis De 
Bar. This comes from a strange confusion with the name of Ann 
O'Delia Diss De Bar, used by a fraudulent spirit medium, known 
also as Ann O'Delia Salomon and Editha Lolita Montez. This 
woman was sentenced in New York City in May 1888 to a term 
of six months in the penitentiary for conspiring to defraud the 
wealthy Luther R. Marsh of his property. The affair was a local 
cause celebre. 

An especially persistent falsehood has connected the names of 
John Booth and John Y. Beall. In September 1864, Beall— repre- 
sented to be an officer in the navy of the Confederate States— was 
involved with one Bennett Burley in an attempt to free the 2,500 
Confederate prisoners on Johnson's Island in Lake Erie. Supplied 
with horses and arms, most of the escaped men were to fight their 
way across Ohio to Wheeling and thence into Virginia. Others 
would capture the Michigan, stationed at Johnson's Island and 
the only naval vessel that the treaty with Canada permitted on the 
Great Lakes, and would then proceed to burn Sandusky, Cleve- 
land, and Buffalo. The foolish plot came to nothing and on Feb- 
ruary 24th, 1865, Beall was hanged on Governor's Island in New 
York Harbor as a spy and guerrilla. A number of distinguished 

73 From a written statement by Mr. Clarke. 

74 See Babcock, "Booth and the Spirit of Lincoln"; p. 287 and note. 

75 New York Tribune, Jan. 13, 1917; p. 8. 
70 Sept. 22, 1883; p. 6. 


(Left) Gold head of die light walking-stick so often carried by him and shown 
in photographs of him. It is heavily chased and bears in a cartouche the in- 
scription: Neil Bryant to J. W. Booth. (Right) Ring of antique dull gold, 
with initials J. W. B. engraved on both sides of it. The ring has been broken 
—apparently to remove it from the finger. 

Originally owned by Dr. J. A. Booth, these came into the possession of Mr. 
C. F. Dahlen, by whose courtesy they have been photographed 


Northerners appealed to the President to save Beall from the gal- 
lows, but this was a case in which Lincoln absolutely refused to 

Beall's execution has been called the cause of Lincoln's murder. 
Booth and Beall, it was said, had been schoolmates (or fellow- 
students at the University of Virginia) and inseparable comrades 
—some versions had it that the two were cousins and that Booth 
was devoted to Beall's sister Lily. The story went that the night 
before Beall's execution, Booth, with Senator Hale, John W. For- 
ney, and Washington McLean, drove at midnight to the Executive 
Mansion. The President was awakened and Booth, kneeling be- 
fore him and clasping his knees, pleaded for Beall's life. Moved 
to tears, Lincoln took Booth's hands and promised to pardon 
Beall. Nevertheless Beall was hanged, for Seward threatened to 
resign if Lincoln granted the pardon. 

In fact, Booth and Beall never met. John W. Forney declared 
that he never met Booth and that the story of the midnight call 
was a lie. Booth never attended the University of Virginia. So far 
as we can tell, he was never in the Executive Mansion. And he 
wrote in the famous diary: "I knew no private wrong. I struck for 
my country and that alone." 

Isaac Markens, who devoted years to the study of this matter, 
exposed the story's falsity in his "President Lincoln and the Case 
of John Y. Beall" (1911). But several years later Lyon G. Tyler 
of Virginia renewed the discredited charge that Booth shot Lin- 
coln because Lincoln "had hung that great and noble Confederate 
naval officer, John Y. Beall, against all civilized rules of warfare," 
after promising Booth "to treat Captain Beall as a prisoner of 
war." 77 

Alger's "Life of Edwin Forrest" tells 78 a story of John McCul- 
lough's rooming with Booth at the National Hotel in Washington 
immediately before the murder. One night he was suddenly awak- 
ened by tears dropping upon his face from the eyes of some one 
standing beside him. Looking up, he saw Booth. 

''''Magazine of History, vol. 43, no. 1 (1931). See also Southern Historical Society 
Papers, vol. xxxii; pp. 99-101. G. A. Foote: "Old Watering Places in Warren County" 

78 ii, 146. 


"Why, what is the matter?" he asked. 

"My God," replied Booth ("already burdened with his mon. 
strous crime, and speaking in a tone of long-drawn melancholy in- 
describably pathetic")— "my God, how peacefully you were sleep- 
ing! / cannot sleep." 

In a telegram to John T. Ford from Montreal, dated June 2nd, 
1865, McCullough said: 

I left Washington on Monday evening, March 26th, and have not 
been there since. 

This was accepted as evidence of the same validity as if the fact 
had been testified to by McCullough in person on the witness 
stand. 79 McCullough could not have been at the National Hotel 
"two or three nights before the assassination." 

In McClure's Magazine for December 1923 an article, "The 
Lincoln I Knew," gave the recollections of Joseph Christian as 
reported by Test Dalton and E. Albert Apple. This Christian 
was represented to have been Lincoln's "valet coachman" and to 
have left the President's service about a month before the assassina- 
tion. He told of meeting and drinking with Booth at a hostelry in 
Baltimore on the afternoon of April 14th. Whether Christian im- 
posed on the authors or they invented him is a question that may 
never be settled; but it is certain that John Booth was in Wash- 
ington all day on the 14th, that Lincoln never had a "valet coach- 
man," and that the coachman at the Executive Mansion, as Wash- 
ington directories attest, was the rotund Irishman Francis P. 

Superstitions of divers kinds gathered around Lincoln after his 
death. People spoke, for example, of the bright star that appeared 
on the day of his second inaugural ceremony. Smith Stimmel was 
in the escort from the Union Lig^ht Guard that followed the Presi- 
dent's carriage as it returned to the Executive Mansion. Along 
Pennsylvania Avenue he noticed the crowd gazing upward, and 
he looked toward the quarter of the heavens at which some were 

79 Conspiracy Trial, June 8, 1865. 


pointing. ". . . There in plain view," he says, "shining out in all 
her beauty, was the planet Venus. It was a little after midday at 
the time I saw it, possibly near one o'clock; the sun seemed to be 
a little west of the meridian, the planet a little east." 80 

It was all due to the clear atmosphere and other favoring con- 
ditions, Stimmel thought. But the superstitious ascribed various 
meanings to it and Lincoln's murder gave it, in their minds, a 
peculiar significance. 

Then there was the "mystic number" seven, whose connection 
with Lincoln so impressed Osborn H. Oldroyd that he wrote a 
brochure about it. Oldroyd mentioned that: 

Lincoln's Christian name and surname have each seven letters. 
Lincoln was sworn into the House of Representatives on December 7th, 

He was elected by the people seven times — four times to the Illinois 
Legislature, once to the House of Representatives, twice to the Presi- 

He voted for the Wilmot Proviso forty- two times (7 x 6). 
He was shot on April 14th (7 x 2). 
His body left Washington on April 21st (7 x 3). 

There was more of the same thing, carefully selected to fit! 

Superstition appeared, too, in regard to the Military Commis- 
sion which tried Mrs. Surratt, Doctor Mudd, Herold, Paine, 
Atzerodt, Spangler, Arnold, and O'Laughlin. Students of the Con- 
spiracy Trial know that the Commission was an anomalous body 
without proper jurisdiction and that its procedure and findings 
were open to the severest criticism. 

A rumor sprang up that within a few years all the members of 
the Commission died violent deaths. Lew Wallace, a member of 
the Commission (and better known as the author of "Ben Hur") 
in his autobiography (1906) stated that in 1892, twenty-seven years 
after the trial, all the members of the Commission were living ex- 
cept Colonel Tompkins, who died at seventy-three, and General 
Hunter, "who lived to over four-score years." 

Jesse W. Weik published a curious story that had been told him 

80 North Dakota Historical Quarterly, January 1927; pp. 27-28. 


by a Miss Porterfield. He said that in April 1865 she was a school- 
girl, and she and her mother had been making a stay in Washing- 
ton, where, through a friend who lived at the National Hotel, she 
became acquainted with John Booth. On the morning of the 13th 
she met him on Pennsylvania Avenue and he inquired whether 
she was studying Latin. "Yes," she answered. Then he asked: "Is 
tyrannis spelled with two ns or two rs?" 

Miss Porterfield obligingly wrote this down for Weik and it 
was printed in full in the Century Magazine for February 1913. 
Inasmuch as Weik thought it worth preserving, it is briefly al- 
luded to here. 

How was Lincoln carried from the box to the Petersen house? 
Some said on a shutter, others said in the rocking chair in which 
he had been sitting. There is no evidence for either. Who carried 
him? Many have been named. Major Rathbone and a Major 
Potter, "assisted by others," said the Intelligencer (April 15th), 
which later (May 4th) mentioned "Gustavus Clark, formerly of 
Boston" as "one of those who assisted." B. W. Loring, at that 
time a lieutenant in the United States Navy, stated that he was 
one of four who carried the President but he did not specify the 
others. 81 It has been said that Thomas C. Gourlay, the Sir Edward 
Trenchard of the evening, was among those that helped, and that 
Col. Otto J. Downing, of Dixon, Illinois, was "one of the five who 
bore Mr. Lincoln across the street." 82 A rather strong case has 
been made out for Jacob Soles, Jabez Griffiths, John Corey, and 
William Sample, artillerymen from Pennsylvania, who were said 
to have been joined by two other soldiers. 83 

It has been stated with positiveness that Booth, if he had been 
unable to enter the box, would have shot Lincoln from a "posi- 
tion in the wings." This is a dubious theory. Booth wished to 
strike a mortal blow— to strike with certainty. He used with 
that intent a weapon so small that it could be carried unobserved 
in his palm. The Deringer was for close quarters; its effective 

"New York Tribune, Apr. 13, 1897. 

82 Clark, "Abraham Lincoln in the National Capital"; pp. 104, 108. 

83 New York Times, Feb. 8, 1931. 


range was limited. An expert in antique firearms (J. K. Scofield 
of the National Rifle Association of America) has given this opin- 
ion to the present writer: "With such a short barrel and the 
added disadvantage of an extremely short sighting radius, I doubt 
that you could depend on hitting a target as large as a man at any 
range longer than twenty or thirty yards." Lincoln in this case 
would have been a poor target. It is not at all plausible that 
Booth, running the chance of being immediately seized, would 
have drawn a larger weapon and attempted to kill the President 
from across the stage. 

"Wilkes Booth's Private Confession of the Murder of President 
Lincoln," a pamphlet issued in London in 1865, was an absurdity 
of British origin. The "Confession" purported to be from a manu- 
script dated April 25th at Garrett's Farm and entrusted to a 
"friend and accomplice" who "managed to make his escape" from 
Garrett's "at the time of Harrold's [Herold's] capture and 
Booth's death." Having reached Liverpool, this nameless associate 
left the packet in the hands of a third person, who promised not 
to open it in less than three days after the "accomplice" had quit 
England. At the end of that interval (the "accomplice" being 
en route to St. Petersburg) the seal was broken and the "Confes- 
sion" given to the printer. 

Amazing Negro dialect is introduced into this effusion, and the 
murder is thus described: 

I was at once confronted by a gentleman in the box, who asked 
me if I knew who [sic] I was intruding upon. I bowed and drew back. 
I then levelled a pistol with my left hand and fired. ... In my fall the 
spur of my boot must have caught something, for my leg was twisted, 
and when I fell upon the stage I was afraid it was broken. I was thrown 
forward but by a great effort I managed to recover myself. "Sic semper 
tyrannis!" I exclaimed. . . . 

Following the "Confession" is a section headed "Capture, Death, 
and Burial of Wilkes Booth," pirated from Townsend. The entire 
pamphlet was translated into French (Paris, 1865), with the ad- 
dition of a report of the Conspiracy Trial ("Proces des complices"). 

Conflicting newspaper stories have appeared as to who was the 


tenant of the hall bedroom in Petersen's house, where Lincoln 
lay through that grievous night. Some have conveyed the impres- 
sion it was John Matthews; others have named Thomas Proctor, a 
retired lawyer of New York, 84 who, though claiming the room, 
placed it up two flights of stairs. (It was admitted that Proctor, 
when he publicly advanced the claim, was of failing memory.) 
Both Matthews and Proctor— who in 1865 was a clerk in the War 
Department— were occupying rooms at Petersen's; but the hall 
bedroom, so often exhibited to visitors through the years, was 
rented at that time by another clerk of the War Department, Wil- 
liam T. Clark, previously of the Thirteenth Massachusetts. This 
was fully shown by his sister Mrs. H. Estes Wright of Boston and 
his niece Mrs. Maud O'Leary of Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts. 85 

Many doctors were in attendance that night. Assistant Surgeon 
Charles A. Leale, U.S.V., a young man in civilian dress, appears 
to have been first to reach the box. Dr. Charles S. Taft, an army 
surgeon in uniform, seems to have been next— lifted up from the 
stage. Dr. A. F. A. King of Washington also was there. Later, Dr. 
Robert K. Stone, the Lincolns' family physician, and Surgeon- 
General J. K. Barnes, were summoned to Petersen's. 86 Doctor 
Stone testified that Mrs. Lincoln sent for him immediately after 
the shooting. Maunsell B. Field, Assistant Secretary of the Treas- 
ury, brought Doctor Hall, "one of the most distinguished surgeons 
in the District," to the Petersen house. 87 Official minutes of the 
President's condition from eleven o'clock that night were kept 
by Dr. Ezra W. Abbott. The Century Magazine for February 1893 
published an account written by Taft from notes made directly 
after the events by direction of Secretary Stanton. Leale issued in 
his later years a privately printed brochure containing the text of 
an address in which he presented his own special and rather ego- 
tistical version, declaring he had prolonged Lincoln's life. 

84 New York Times, Oct. 1-5, 1921. 

85 O. H. Oldroyd, "The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln"; pp. 37-38. New York 
Times, Oct. 4, 1921. 

88 J. E. Buckingham, "Reminiscences and Souvenirs"; pp. 20-24. 
"Field, "Memories of Many Men"; pp. 321-329. Baker, "History of the United 
States Secret Service"; pp. 468-471. 



The distinguished French actor, Edmond Got, societaire of the 
Comedie Franchise of Paris, from 1840 to 1892 kept a journal 
which was published in 1910, nine years after his death. Under 
date of April 30th, 1865, it has a remarkable entry which, put into 
English, reads as follows: 

The assassination of President Lincoln — a few days after the capture 
of Richmond and therefore just about at the very end of the intermi- 
nable War of Secession, in which victory went to the Northern States 
— and I knew the chief actor in it. 

Actor is the word. It is three months since Fechter [Charles Albert 
Fechter, who created the role of Armand Duval in "La dame aux 
camelias" in 1852 and was known for his "blond Hamlet"] sent to me 
Booth, a celebrated tragedian of New York, with a strong letter of 
recommendation. Booth wished to spend a little time in Paris. [Fechter 
was in London.] 

He is an extremely handsome fellow, vigorous-looking and of dis- 
tinguished manner; well enough educated but speaking French hardly 
at all. 

I courteously offered him the hospitality of my home until he could 
rent an apartment and engage a carriage by the month, for he wished 
to maintain the style of a gentleman. 

He lived in my house for three days, seeking through me to make 
himself au courant with the artistic and social life here. Several times, 
I remember, when we were smoking, he talked to me about Julius 
Caesar, Shakespeare, and Brutus — especially Brutus. . . . 

"What do you in France think of Brutus?" 

"At college we admire him in the Greek version, on Plutarch's testi- 
mony. But, fundamentally, what was Brutus save an ungrateful and 
sinister dreamer — a sophist in his very blood? Did he not pronounce 
judgment on himself, and on the part he played, in that final cry of 
his: 'Virtue, thou art nothing but a name!'?" 

And Booth, disconcerted, nervously changed the conversation. I re- 
member that now. When he was no longer in my home, I saw him 
pretty often. He made the round of the theatres, the tour of the city, 
progressing rapidly in Parisian civilization. To such an extent that I 
presented him to a pretty girl of my acquaintance whom he had noticed 
at the Porte-Saint-Martin in "The Filibustered of the Sonora." 

But what was my surprise one morning at hearing this young person 
— and she was no timid soul, either — relate, in utter dismay, that Booth 
was a madman. She said that he would get up in the night and walk in 


his sleep and jabber with spirits; that she was frightened and was going 
to escape to Nice without bidding him good-bye. . . . 

Shortly afterward Booth — the sanest man in the world, in appearance 
at least — came to take farewell of me and set out for America. . . . 

"It is necessary for me to return," he said. 

It was he who, during the course of a theatrical performance, shot 
President Lincoln and got away without being seized. . . . 

He's a fellow they will not capture alive; I'll guarantee that. For I 
am aware that he had his idee fixe, even when he was in France. . . . 
He has struggled with it in vain. . . . On his return he succumbed to it. 

This sounds plausible, and the Gallic flavor is amusing; but it 
cannot be true. From November gth, 1864, when John Booth 
came to the National Hotel in Washington, five months before 
the murder, he was never absent long enough for a voyage to 
France, a residence of a fortnight or perhaps more in Paris, and 
the return trip to America. This was shown by the register of the 
hotel, a certified memorandum from which was accepted in evi- 
dence at the Conspiracy Trial. It is not possible that Booth could 
have been in France at a time prior by three months, or anything 
like three months, to April 30th, 1865. 

F. Lauriston Bullard, chief editorial writer of the Boston Her- 
ald, who made long study of this puzzle, and with whom the 
present writer corresponded regarding it, stated that his researches 
"have yielded nothing but wild tales." Neither he nor Philip 
Hale, who also was interested in the problem, was able to discover 
any other reference to this alleged visit of Booth's. "Yet Edmond 
Got," he said, "was a man of high character, serious and dignified." 

It has been asserted that the entry in Got's diary "confirms in 
part documents in the Booth dossier in Washington," but these 
"documents" appear to be imaginary. It has been further asserted 
that early in 1865 John Booth was sent to France as the agent of 
Jefferson Davis to appeal to Napoleon III to save the Confederacy 
in return for the European monopoly of Southern cotton. If 
ever there was "evidence" of this impossible mission, it eluded 
the agents of the War Department. There is no proof that John 
Booth was at any time on the Continent. 88 

88 The reference in a letter of Edwin's to Mr. and Mrs. Stoddard (Jan. 1863), 
quoted in Skinner's "The Last Tragedian" (pp. 69-70), is not conclusive. 


If it be suggested that Got's Booth was an impostor, some one 
may well ask, "Why, then, did he talk of Julius Caesar and Brutus 
—'especially Brutus'?" Was it to persuade the French actor that 
his visitor belonged to the family famous for acting Shakespeare— 
the family in which Brutus was so much more than a role? 


IN an editorial article on Monday, April 17th, 1865, Henry J. 
Raymond of the New York Times said of Lincoln's murder: 

It is as when there "was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not 
a house where there was not one dead." 

We follow in the contemporary press the fortnight's progress of 
the funeral train across the country through lines of mourners; 
we read "O Captain! My Captain!" and sample the printed texts 
of rhetorical eulogies, and search the recollections of those who saw 
those days— we may even have talked with men and women who 
shared that grief and joined in the dirges, or who viewed the 
ravaged face of the dead. From all this we might conclude that 
Raymond wrote no more than literal truth. 

He referred, however, to the North alone, and he must be un- 
derstood as meaning the loyal North. For even in the North there 
was considerable open rejoicing, of which we may learn from many 
sources. Bystanders maintained that a "street operator" in the 
widely disloyal city of New York was overheard to say, "This 
thing ought to have happened four years ago." "Traitor! Hang 
him!" was the cry, and forthwith angry citizens made ready to 
suspend him from a lamppost in front of the Bank of North 
America; but he managed to escape. A German, Genter by name, 
employed in a tannery at Duquesne, Pennsylvania, expressed 
"great delight." Repeatedly thrown into a tan vat, he was finally 
rescued and discharged. Among the manuscripts of the McLellan 
Collection is a letter from Rachel Miller of Conneaut, Ohio, to 
her husband (seemingly in the army), telling of a woman neigh- 



bor who, when she heard the news, "went out in the street and 
jumped up and down and said she was glad of it." At Newport, 
Midshipman Frederic G. Hyde, making entry in his diary for 
April 15th, declared, "I never felt the loss of any friend more than 
the loss of President Lincoln!"— but also noted that "A man in Fall 
River was mobbed for saying, 'This is the best news I have heard 
in four years.' " These were but typical outbursts of Copperhead 
feeling. A Copperhead in the vicinity of Waterbury, Connecticut, 
was said to have displayed a flag bearing the words the devil is 

Washington's National Republican of April 26th published a 
San Francisco dispatch in which it was reported that at Green 
Valley in California a meeting was held for the purpose of exulting 
over Lincoln's death. When troops were sent to break up the 
meeting, ringleaders barricaded the house, and not until fired 
upon did they surrender. At Marietta, Indiana, an anvil was 
loaded and fired and, amid singing and dancing, an effigy of Lin- 
coln was carried in procession about the village streets and then 

Northern radicals, if not exactly jubilant, tended to be cheer- 
fully resigned and acquiescent. For instance, Representative 
George W. Julian of Indiana, in his "Political Recollections," 
says that when first he heard of the murder and "that rebel assas- 
sins were about to take the town," he "grew suddenly cold, heart- 
sick and almost helpless"— but he "soon rallied." 

I spent most of the afternoon [of the 15th] in a political caucus, held 
for the purpose of considering the necessity for a new Cabinet and a 
line of policy less conciliatory than that of Mr. Lincoln; and while 
everybody was shocked at his murder, the feeling was nearly universal 
that the accession of Johnson to the presidency would prove a godsend 
to the country. 

In their Easter sermons, many of the clergy deplored Lincoln's 
"natural gentleness," and appeared inclined to view his withdrawal 
as a species of divine interposition. 

In the South a few voiced honest regret. Gen. R. S. Ewell in a 
letter set down his "unqualified abhorrence and indignation"; 
Gen. J. E. Johnston and Gen. Roger A. Pryor spoke in the same 
vein; there were others whose utterance was clear and decided, 


Nevertheless, for the most part the frank words of John S. Wise in 
"The End of an Era" may be regarded as trustworthy: 

. . . Perhaps I ought to chronicle that the announcement was received 
with sentiments of sorrow. If I did, I should be lying for sentiment's 
sake. Among the higher officers and the most intelligent and conserva- 
tive men, the assassination caused a shudder of horror at the heinous- 
ness of the act, and at the thought of its possible consequences; but 
among the thoughtless, the desperate, and the ignorant, it was hailed 
as a sort of retributive justice. In maturer years I have been ashamed of 
what I felt and said when I heard of that awful calamity. . . . We were 
desperate and vindictive, and whosoever denies it forgets or is false. 

Jefferson Davis, while fleeing southward from Richmond, re- 
ceived at Charlotte, North Carolina, a telegram from Gen. John C. 
Breckinridge, announcing the murder. During the Conspiracy 
Trial, Lewis F. Bates testified that Davis, at the end of a speech, 
read this telegram aloud and commented, "If it were to be done, 
it were better it were well done." This testimony— which suggests 
that Bates was familiar with Macbeth's 

If it were done when 't is done, then 't were well 
It were done quickly — 

was flatly contradicted by Davis in "The Rise and Fall of the Con- 
federate Government," and the denial was confirmed by Stephen 
R. Mallory, Secretary of the Navy in Davis' cabinet, through an 
extract from Mallory's papers as given in McClure's Magazine 
for January 1901. 

Davis in his book observes that although Lincoln's death, "in 
view of its political consequences," was "a great misfortune to the 
South," yet "we could not be expected to mourn" for so relentless 
an enemy. It may be conceded that L. F. Bates was a false wit- 
ness; but Davis' own phraseology is grudging and ungracious— 
rather in keeping with the character of the man who, according to 
J. B. Jones (in "A Rebel War Clerk's Diary") had denounced 
Lincoln as His Majesty Abraham the First, and of whom Sam 
Houston is reported to have said: "I know Jeff Davis well. He is as 
ambitious as Lucifer and as cold as a lizard." 

At a Confederate meeting in the court house square of Shreve- 
port, Louisiana, on April 29th, 1865, a Colonel Flournoy of Ar- 
kansas made an address that the Shreveport Sentinel was con- 


strained to think "in some respects rather uncharitable and ill- 
judged." The Colonel compared John Booth to Marcus Brutus, 
and predicted for him a similar abiding fame. 

Manuscript copies of flatulent stanzas entitled "Our Brutus" 
and usually attributed to Judge A. W. Terrell of Texas were 
passed about in the South. In this effusion, Booth was glorified as 

He who dared break the rod 
Of the blackamoor's god, 
All the hosts of the despot defying. . . . 

A portion of it, set to music as a vocal solo by E. B. Armand, was 
published in New Orleans in 1868. Another version appeared in 
the Confederate Veteran as late as April 1913. 

In the 'sixties an attempt was made at Troy, Alabama, to put 
up a monument in honor of Booth in Court House Square. Per- 
mission was refused, the owner placed the monument on his own 
land, and there it was reported to have stood until 1921, when it 
was removed by order of the town council. 

Why did Booth shoot Lincoln? The question long has busied 
ingenious minds. That there must have been some individual or 
group "higher up"— this notion is a hardy perennial displaying 
many varieties. 

The press made known that G. G. McGeer of Vancouver assured 
a Canadian parliamentary committee on banking that interna- 
tional bankers, desiring establishment of the gold standard, hired 
Booth to put Lincoln out of the way. A correspondent of the 
present writer's is confident that the "Whiskey Ring" did the hir- 
ing, and that Thaddeus Stevens was mixed up in the business. 

Far from new is the charge that Andrew Johnson was the power 
behind the Deringer— it dates from an open letter "To the People 
of the United States," printed in the Montreal Gazette of May 
23rd, 1865, over the signature of Beverley Tucker, for whose ar- 
rest President Johnson on May 2nd had offered $25,000. Johnson 
had proclaimed that Lincoln's "atrocious murder" was incited, 
concerted, and procured by and between Jefferson Davis, Jacob 
Thompson, Clement C. Clay, Beverley Tucker, George N. Sanders, 
William C. Cleary, and "other rebels and traitors;" and he had 


offered rewards for the arrest of those named— graded from $100,- 
000 for Davis to $10,000 for Cleary. The fiery Tucker replied in 
no bland terms. 

He pointed to "the fact that Andrew Johnson is the only solitary 
individual, of the thirty-five millions of souls comprised in that 
land, who could possibly realize any interest or benefit" from the 
murder; he referred to what he said was Booth's call upon John- 
son; alleged that Booth "unquestionably could have been" taken 
alive. "Dead men," he said, "tell no tales, and the wantonly 
hushed voice of this unhappy man, leaves behind his bloody 
tragedy a fearful mystery." 

Here is the stuff of which myth is formed. The card that Booth 
left at the Kirkwood (Tucker badly misquotes it) was not in- 
tended for Johnson. Robert R. Jones, clerk at the hotel, testified 
on May 13th, 1865: 

I gave a card of J. Wilkes Booth to Col. Browning, Mr. Johnson's 
secretary; it was put in the box. I gave him that card and it was left 
for Col. Browning. 

It was not unquestionable that Booth might have been captured 
alive. Booth's voice was by no means hushed. His letter "To 
Whom It May Concern" and his "diary" leave small room for mys- 

Tucker was a resentful and angry man, striking back defen- 
sively. So was George N. Sanders, who in the Gazette of May 24th 
addressed a letter to "Titus Oates Holt," care of E. M. Stanton, 
Secretary of War "and co-conspirator." This cannot be pleaded for 
those who with well-considered animus developed by oblique 
hints what Prof. Allan Nevins rightly has called "the bizarre 
hypothesis" that Stanton incited and abetted the murder. Of Stan- 
ton's peculiarities there is sufficient evidence for those who care to 
harp on them; of an earlier and quite different Stanton— a Stan- 
ton characterized by Donn Piatt as "young, ardent, and of a most 
joyous nature," with a "hearty and contagious" laugh— there is 
evidence, too, for the fairminded; of a blood-guilty Stanton there 
is no real evidence whatever. As for Stanton's fellowship with 
extreme radicals, this, as Dewitt has said, "receives support from 
no authentic testimony coming from himself at first hand." 


Soon after the murder, James M. Mason (the man who had 
drafted the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850), lingering abroad, in- 
formed the British public that John Booth, far from sympathizing 
with the South, was actually a Northern radical and killed Lin- 
coln in order that radical schemes might have free play. Stanton, 
Mason charged, had sent out false reports regarding Booth and 
Booth's deed. Since the day of Sanders and of Mason, elaborate 
attack has been made upon Stanton as the effective instrument of 
an ill-defined coterie of Northern politicians. Though "at every 
word a reputation dies," the indictment admittedly is without 
support in any real evidence. 

Strangely enough, Catholics or ex-Catholics have been foremost 
in ascribing Lincoln's murder to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. 
Papers in the Department of State reveal that Henri de Ste. Marie, 
the member of the Pontifical Zouaves who informed against Sur- 
ratt, stated at Rome, July 10th, 1866: 

I believe he [Surratt] is protected by the clergy, and that the murder 
is the result of a deep-laid plot, not only against the life of President 
Lincoln, but against the existence of the republic, as we are aware that 
priesthood and royalty are and always have been opposed to liberty. 

The writings of Chiniquy and Burke McCarty's "The Suppressed 
Truth about the Assassination of Lincoln" have expanded on this 
theme to no purpose, and can be regarded as nothing more than 
literary oddities. It is not true that all, or nearly all, of the ten 
persons brought to trial were Roman Catholics; only four were 
of the Catholic faith: Mrs. Surratt, John H. Surratt, Michael 
O'Laughlin, and Dr. Samuel A. Mudd. Booth was confirmed in 
the Protestant Episcopal Church and at the last was buried accord- 
ing to its rites. 

As long ago as September 21st, 1872, Eugene Lawrence said in 
Harper's Weekly: 

Mr. Johnson and the majority of the Northern people, in the first 
rage of grief, fixed upon Davis, Saunders [Sanders], Clay, and Tucker, 
as the real assassins, and a large reward was offered for their arrest. Nor 
was it unlikely that persons who were known to have committed deeds 
almost equally atrocious would shrink from the last step in crime. Yet 
the proof failed. The plot has never yet been traced beyond its active 


On January 24th, 1876, the New York Tribune published a let- 
ter from Chief Justice George Shea of the Marine Court, in which 
he said that at Washington in May 1866 Thaddeus Stevens had 
pronounced the "evidence" on the basis of which the rewards 
were offered to be "insufficient in itself, and incredible." Shea 

I am not likely ever to forget the earnest manner in which Mr. 
Stevens then said to me: "Those men are no friends of mine. They are 
public enemies; and I would treat the South as a conquered country 
and settle it politically upon the policy best suited for ourselves. But 
I know these men, sir. They are gentlemen, and incapable of being 

The Hon. A. J. Rogers, member of the Select Committee on the 
Assassination, had asserted in 1866 that there was no evidence, 
either verbal or written, "worthy of the slightest credit," to asso- 
ciate any of those "charged therewith, now at liberty, with that 
assassination, directly or indirectly." At the Conspiracy Trial of 
1865 not only was nothing of evidential value offered to prove a 
"general conspiracy," but in fact the prosecution laid itself open 
to charges of suborning perjury. The story that Booth was selected 
by lot at a conclave in Memphis is hardly more flimsy than the 
other story that he was the instrument of Southern agents in 
Canada. Neither has any decent evidence to support it. The 
Montreal Telegraph expressly affirmed that Booth "was not cor- 
dially received by Southern men here, it being reported that he 
was a Federal spy, and in this light he was generally, although 
perhaps untruly regarded." Booth described himself, even in the 
abduction plot, as "A Confederate doing duty upon his own re- 
sponsibility"; and in the murder as "God's instrument," hoping 
for no gain. 

Although not believing that the cabinet at Richmond had ever 
argued the matter, or that any other member of that cabinet had 
sanctioned violence, William H. Seward (so Orville Browning 
recorded) thought Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Secretary of 
State, had encouraged and subsidized Booth. It seems to be true 
that Benjamin, both as Secretary of State and previously as Sec- 
retary of War, had a way of detailing Confederate officers for 


exceptional service under his direct orders. Booth was not, how- 
ever, a Confederate officer, and nothing has at any time been pro- 
duced from Benjamin's archives or elsewhere to suggest that the 
two men had so much as conferred or that Benjamin had sup- 
plied funds for any undertaking. 

In Chapter Twelve of the present volume will be found a dis- 
cussion of the foolish yarn— extensively accepted by Southerners, 
including that professed historian Lyon G. Tyler— that Booth's 
deed was in vengeance for the hanging of John Y. Beall. A tenuous 
assumption is that Booth, knowing his voice was gone and his act- 
ing career was over, killed Lincoln merely to win fame, inasmuch 
as fame upon the stage was unattainable. Booth, as we have seen, 
had won fame upon the stage. His acting career was by no means 
over. After getting rid of a cold that had affected him in New 
Orleans, he completed in May 1864 five weeks of "most successful 
performances" in Boston; in November took part, with approval, 
in the gala performance of "Julius Caesar" in New York; and 
early in 1865 appeared twice in Washington. He continued to be 
regarded by managers as a "star" attraction; and, as we know 
from statements in the War Department's archives, his brother 
Junius not only had urged him to "follow his profession" but ex- 
pected him to be in New York to play in another benefit for the 
Shakespeare Fund on April 22nd. 

There is no need to imagine vain things or to assemble a 
melange of scandalous inferences against any particular individual 
or small group, whether of the North or of the South. The whole 
affair cuts deeper than that. 

The Southern cotton planters had bestowed the term "fanatic" 
on all exponents of human liberty; but it may well be doubted 
whether a more fanatical devotion ever has been seen— unless, per- 
haps, among Mohammedan tribesmen— than was that of the South 
to the idea of human bondage as the divine cornerstone of so- 
ciety. Toward that idea the most specious logic, the most disin- 
genuous oratory, the most incendiary journalism were vigorously 
directed; and even the Church was drawn to its support. The 
hatred of Lincoln that existed both in the South and among the 
Copperheads of the North was in itself a testimony to his identity 


with the cause of freedom. Nothing in the character of Lincoln as 
a person could have moved Robert Toombs of Georgia to exclaim 
(as he did in the Senate on January 7th, 1861): "He is, therefore, 
an enemy of the human race, and deserves the execration of all 
mankind!" It was the same enduring hatred that, when the Vir- 
ginia House of Delegates passed a resolution in 1928 to honor Lin- 
coln's birthday, moved Lyon G. Tyler to write a long and bitter 
letter to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, protesting against any 
respect for "Lincoln the Barbarian." 

The secessionist mind, Henry Adams wrote, was "haunted by 
suspicion, by idees fixes, by violent morbid excitement." John 
Booth, from his early years in and near Baltimore, had been 
caught up into all this, and its result was a kind of progressive 
monomania in him. Mrs. Anne Gilbert, who had acted with him, 
thought his frame of mind comparable to that of a young nihilist 
in autocratic Russia. Of the real Lincoln he knew practically noth- 
ing; Lincoln was to him the heartless despot of malicious carica- 
ture. Henry Winter Davis, Booth's Know-Nothing leader, finally 
turned Republican, but a radical one, so hating Lincoln that, if 
Lincoln had lived, Davis would, it is said, have attempted his im- 
peachment. Booth's professional journeyings had taken him 
through both the South and the North, and everywhere he came 
upon hatred of Lincoln from one motive or another. 

It was rife in New York and Philadelphia, and John Booth often 
sojourned in each of them; it was rife in his old home town of 
Baltimore, where the abduction plot was launched, and in Wash- 
ington, where that plot was encouraged. It was amazingly rife in 
disloyal journals within the Federal lines. We are not wholly sur- 
prised that the Richmond Dispatch referred to Lincoln as "the 
Chimpanzee" and "the Ape"; that it called him "an ignorant and 
vulgar backwoods pettifogger" and "a vulgar tyrant" with "no 
more idea of statesmanship than as a means of making money," 
who "still cries for blood"; that it said of him: "It would be impos- 
sible to find another such ass in the United States." But within the 
Federal lines we meet pronouncements like these: 

From the New York Copperhead (May 30th, 1863)— 

The people hired Abe Lincoln to maintain the Constitution and 
Laws of the United States. As he has wholly neglected to perform his 


duty, according to agreement, we submit that he is morally bound to 
hand over his salary to Hon. C. L. Vallandigham and others who have 
labored and done their best to perform his duty for him — i.e., to pre- 
serve the Constitution and the Laws. 

From the Illinois State Register (August 4th, 1864), published 
in Lincoln's town of Springfield- 
To-day is "Massa Linkum's" day of fasting, humiliation and prayer. 
As the Register thinks the nation has ample reason for fasting, because 
Lincoln has made food so high; for humiliation at the disgrace his 
miserable, imbecile policies have brought upon us; and for prayer that 
God, in his goodness, will spare us a second term of such a president, 
the day will be observed by the employes of this establishment, and no 
paper may be expected to-morrow. 

But there was worse, as for example: 
This from The South of Baltimore (June 7th, 1861)— 

Two posts standant; 
One beam crossant; 
One rope pendent; 
Abram on the end on 't, 
Glorious! splendent. 

Or this from the New York Copperhead (July nth, 1863)— 

We trust that long-legged Kentuckian at Washington will duly heed 
these pregnant suggestions. Behave yourself in future, boss, or we shall 
be obliged to make an island of your head and stick it on the end of a 

Then, for the first time, Lincoln's cocoa-nut will be well posted. 

Or this from the ineffable Mark M. Pomeroy's La Crosse (Wiscon- 
sin) Democrat (August 29th, 1864)— 

The man who votes for Lincoln now is a traitor. Lincoln is a traitor 
and murderer. He who pretending to war for, wars against the consti- 
tution of our country is a traitor, and Lincoln is one of those men. He 
who calls and allures men to certain butchery, is a murderer, and Lin- 
coln has done all this. Had any former Democratic President warred 
upon the Constitution or trifled with the destinies of the nation as 
Lincoln has he would have been hurled to perdition long since. And if 
he is elected to misgovern for another four years, we trust some bold 
hand will pierce his heart with dagger point for the public good. 


The Old Guard, a New York magazine, published in May 1865 
(copies were out in April) a section with the running-head 
"Timely Readings from the Poets." This contained such excerpts 
from the English poets as: 

Fear no stain; 
A tyrant's blood doth wash the hand that spills it. 

(Cartwright's "Siege") 

Is the worst of treasons. 

(Byron's "Two Foscari") 

Tyrants seldom die 
Of a dry death; it waiteth at their gate, 
Drest in the color of their robes of state, 

(Alleyn's "Henry VII") 

"The independent assassin . . . ," wrote Dr. William Brown- 
ing in his "American Assassins," "often represents the crest of a 
morbid wave including many others in the community. It is clear 
that, excluding conspiracies, there must be many near-assassins for 
each one that makes the attempt. . . . We can be sure the animus 
in greater or less degree is widespread." Lamon in his "Recollec- 
tions" says that during the "most anxious and trying period" 
letter-writers were "so outrageous and vindictive that if Booth had 
wrapped his bullet in a shred of their correspondence he might 
have lodged a vindication of his crime in the brain of his victim." 

Through the fanatical John Booth the diffused hatred of Abra- 
ham Lincoln struck. Mark Pomeroy and his species had their 
wish. After that demoralizing winter of 1864-1865 and the col- 
lapse of the abduction plot, Booth determined upon murder— 
which he called "sacrifice." It was to him the way of duty; it might 
also be the path of glory; but "something decisive k great must 
be done." Slavery he termed "one of the greatest blessings . . . 
that God ever bestowed upon a favored nation." ". . . That 
cause," wrote Grant, "was, I believe, one of the worst for which a 
people ever fought." . . . And the blood of Lincoln was upon 
that cause. 


Pains the sharp sentence the breast in whose wrath it was uttered, 

Now thou art cold; 
Vengeance the headlong, and justice with purpose close muttered, 

Loosen their hold. 

Death brings atonement; he did that whereof ye accuse him, — 

Murder accurst; 
But, from the crisis of crime in which Satan did lose him, 

Suffered the worst. 

Harshly the red dawn arose on a deed of his doing, 

Never to mend; 
But harsher days he wore out in the bitter pursuing 

And the wild end. 

To lift the pale flag of truce, wrap those mysteries round him, 

In whose avail 
Madness that moved, and the swift retribution that found him, 

Falter and fail. 

So the soft purples that quiet the heavens with mourning, 

Willing to fall, 
Lend him one fold, his illustrious victim adorning 

With wider pall. 

Back to the cross, where the Saviour, uplifted in dying, 

Bade all souls live, 
Turns the reft bosom of Nature, his mother, low sighing, 
"Greatest, forgive!" 

Julia Ward Howe 



Without much courteous and intelligent aid, this volume could 
not have been written. The author here wishes to acknowledge 
an especial indebtedness to these persons: 

Prof. Robert H. Ball, formerly Curator of the Hutton and Seymour 
Collections, Princeton University 

Maj. Ernest W. Brown, Major and Superintendent, Metropolitan 
Police Department, Government of the District of Columbia 

Mr. F. Lauriston Bullard, Boston 

Capt. John T. Clemens, Lincoln Museum, Washington 

Mr. Edward P. Crummer, whose familiar and accurate knowledge of 
Baltimore, its history, and its people was of great service. Through 
him the author obtained the assistance of the late Henry W. Mears. 

Miss Esther C. Cushman, Curator of the McLellan Collection, John 
Hay Library, Brown University 

Mr. Charles F. Dahlen 

Mr. Roy Day, Librarian, The Players, New York 

Mr. L. H. Dielman, Librarian, Peabody Institute of the City of Balti- 

Mr. Ralph Dudley 

Mrs. H. Clay Ford (Blanche Chapman) 

Mr. John T. Ford III, whose interest was shown in many ways and 
particularly through the loan of the John T. Ford Papers, an im- 
portant collection hitherto unknown to students 

Mr. Louis H. Fox, Chief of the Newspaper Division, New York Public 

Mr. Harper L. Garrett, National Park Service, Washington 

Miss Mary F. Goodwin, Richmond 

Mr. Irving Greentree, Richmond 

Mr. Wilmer M. Hall, Librarian, State Library of Virginia 

Miss Susan B. Harrison, House Regent, Confederate Museum, Rich- 



Mrs. Walter Hopkins 

Mr. George lies 

Mr. John Hall Jacobs, Librarian, New Orleans Public Library 

Rev. Fleming James, Berkeley Divinity School 

Mr. David W. Jenkins, Baltimore 

Mr. J. L. Lyons, Chief Clerk, Office of the Judge Advocate General, 

Miss Helen Magonigle 

The late Henry W. Mears, Baltimore 

The late Edward B. Pitts, formerly Chief Clerk, Office of the Judge 
Advocate General, Washington 

Miss May Davenport Seymour, Curator of the Theatre and Music Col- 
lections, Museum of the City of New York 

Miss Jean E. Spaulding, Brander Matthews Dramatic Museum, Colum- 
bia University 

Mr. A. V. Sullivan, Treasury Department Archives, Washington 

Mrs. Natalia Summers, State Department Archives, Washington 

Mr. Richard Webster, for his critical reading of a portion of the text 
and the benefit of his many helpful suggestions throughout the work 

Dr. Isadore Zadek, for his expert advice 

Further acknowledgment should also be made to 

The Board of Directors, The Players, New York 

The Chicago Historical Society 

The Congressional Library, Washington, for the use of its resources 
and for the numerous courtesies of its staff 

The Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore 

The Fraser Institute, Montreal 

The Harvard College Library 

The Indiana State Library, Indianapolis 

The Library of the City of Boston 

The Library of the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore 

The Library of the Union League Club, Philadelphia 

The New York Historical Society 

The New York Public Library; and especially its American History 
Division, Drama Section, and Newspaper Division, for constant help 
in the work of research 

The Edward V. Valentine Collection of the Valentine Museum, Rich- 

The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison 


The manuscript material used by the author is for the most 
part cited in the footnotes. For reference purposes a selected list 
is here given of printed sources that were especially serviceable. 

Newspapers and News-Periodicals 

Albany Evening Journal 
Atlas and Argus (Albany) 
Baltimore American 
Baltimore Evening Star 
Baltimore Republican 
Baltimore Sun 
Boston Advertiser 
Boston Gazette 
Boston Globe 
Boston Journal 
Boston Post 
Daily Alta California 
Daily Dispatch (Richmond) 
Daily Evening Bulletin 

Daily Morning Chronicle 

Daily National Intelligencer 

Daily National Republican 

Daily Picayune (New Orleans) 
Daily Richmond Examiner 
Dramatic Mirror 
Evening Bulletin (Philadelphia) 
Evening Day-Book (New York) 

Evening Post (New York) 

Evening Star (Washington) 

Forney's War Press (Philadelphia) 

Frank Leslie's Illustrated 

Harper's Weekly 

Missouri Republican 

Montreal Gazette 

National Era 

National Intelligencer, Tri-weekly 

New York Argus 

New York Clipper 

New York Commercial Adver- 

New York 

New York 

New York 

New York 

New York 

New York 

New York 

New York 

New York 

New York 

New York 


Daily News 

Dramatic Mirror 




Morning Telegraph 


Sunday Telegraph 



39 6 


New York Weekly Times Sun (New York) 

Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Herald (Boston) 

Philadelphia North American Sunday Mercury (New York) 

Philadelphia Press The South (Baltimore) 

Philadelphia Record Washington Critic 

Richmond Daily Whig Washington Patriot 

Richmond Enquirer Washington Weekly Chronicle 

Spirit of the Times (New York) World (New York) 

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